The Boston Jazz Society was founded in 1973 with the mission, “Keep Jazz Alive.” Its foremost method of doing this was through assisting young musicians, either by sponsoring performances, or through its scholarship fund. Their most famous fundraiser was the annual Jazz Barbecue, held every summer for more than 20 years. In October 1978, the Society sweetened its appeal for funds by coupling it with a testimonial dinner and concert to honor Roxbury’s own Roy Haynes, one of the great drummers of jazz.

Program cover from the 1978 Tribute to Roy Haynes

Program cover for the Tribute to Roy Haynes, Oct 22, 1978

Haynes had come a long way in his 33 years away from Boston, guided always by his uncanny sense of rhythm. His years with Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Sarah Vaughan took him to the late 1950s, and after that he freelanced or led his own groups. By 1978 he was overdue for a hometown tribute.

This was no ordinary scholarship benefit. It was the BJS’s most ambitious event to that point, and when the October 22 date finally arrived, more than 300 people paid $20 each to attend the Haynes gala at the Copley Plaza Hotel.

Billy Taylor, then one of jazz’s most prominent public faces, served as emcee. It was a homecoming crowd, mostly local; the head table was crowded with the Haynes extended family. They were surrounded by family friends, musicians, singers, disk jockeys, writers, educators, music students, and quite possibly every member of the Boston Jazz Society. All the drummers were there. The BJS newsletter later published a photo of Haynes with Jo Jones, Alan Dawson, and Terri Lyne Carrington.

After the requisite acknowledgements and speeches, the crowd got down to it with the music. Good band: trumpeter Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson (now Hannibal Lokumbe), a member of the Roy Haynes Hip Ensemble in the early 1970s, and saxophonists Andy McGhee and Frank Foster were out front. The rhythm section included James Williams, John Neves, and Alan Dawson. Jimmy Slyde dropped by to contribute a bit of tap. I could find no mention of who sat in.

Ed Henderson, the business manager (and future president) of the BJS, planned the event. He saw two ways to fill the scholarship fund’s coffers: ticket sales and purchased advertisements in the souvenir program. That program ran to 24 pages, 19 of which were ads—a 1978 time capsule. They represented record companies, music stores and suppliers (heavy on the percussion), radio stations, friends from the music world, and jazz clubs. The ads suggest where to hear more music after the tribute. Chico Freeman was at Lulu White’s on October 22, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago was at Jonathan Swift’s.

The fundraiser established the Roy Haynes Scholarship Fund, and the first scholarship recipients included a trio of Berklee saxophonists, Branford Marsalis (1980), Donald Harrison (1981) and Walter Beasley (1982). Although the Boston Jazz Society eventually ended its operations, the successor endowment, the Roy Haynes Scholarship Fund for outstanding achievement in performance, is still awarded by the Berklee College of Music. That in itself is quite a tribute, not just to Haynes, but also to the Boston Jazz Society and all its efforts to keep jazz alive.

The album Haynes had in the stores in 1978 was Thank You, Thank You on Galaxy, a funk affair, and all strings and percussion here on “Quiet Fire.” George Cables on piano, Cecil McBee on bass. Roy just pushes this along, with a solo at about the 5:30 mark.