Last May, the 87-year-old Roy Haynes, who has played with everyone from Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk to Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, stood up from behind his drum kit at the Johns Hopkins Club on the university's Home`wood campus. A small bald man in a dapper black suit, Haynes bantered with the audience, crowded close around him, and then found a small patch of wooden floor between the potted plants and indoor patio furniture to do an impromptu tap dance.
It was a special moment for anyone with a feel for jazz history, for here was one of the greatest drummers of the 20th century displaying the roots of his rhythm-making in a room with the intimacy and look of a Jazz club. The tap-dancing didn't even have to be mic-ed, because the room was that small and the sound that lively.
The Jazz at the Johns Hopkins Club series began last year with impressive shows by Haynes, guitarist John Scofield, and others. It continues this Saturday with a show by the Marcus Strickland Quartet, followed by appearances from Jason Moran and Bandwagon (March 30), Jack DeJohnette and Gary Thomas (April 20) and Chick Corea (May 21). With mathematical logic, the spring shows proceed from quartet to trio to duo to solo.
It's an odd series, because the performers could fill much larger rooms than the bar at the Hopkins Club. Moran-the Kennedy Center's Artistic Advisor for Jazz and Downbeat Jazz Artist of the Year-could easily fill the BMA Auditorium as could DeJohnette, nearly as legendary a drummer as Haynes. Corea could probably fill the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. So why are they playing in a small, T-shaped room with awkward sightlines and too many hard surfaces to reflect sound?
Because the series' two main instigators-Hopkins president Ron Daniels and Peabody Jazz Department chairman Gary Thomas-are both jazz fans who yearned for a Baltimore venue with both the close quarters and high talent level of New York's Village Vanguard. While An die Musik, the Windup Space, and the Chamber Jazz Society may be presenting tomorrow's stars or yesterday's overlooked geniuses, the Hopkins Club will be presenting already-certified, major jazz stars.
There's no better evidence for this than the new four-disc box set, the Miles Davis Quintet's Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2, featuring one of his best lineups: the so-called "lost quintet" of Davis, DeJohnette, Corea, Wayne Shorter, and Dave Holland. All five musicians went onto become jazz giants, and two of them will be at the Hopkins Club this spring.