Thursday, August 16, 2007

Max Roach

Max Roach, one of the giants of jazz, died today at age 83. His drumming innovations were critical to the development of the be-bop revolution, though not often credited as being on the same level as the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

He was also a socially conscious musician. In 1960, he recorded the landmark Freedom Now Suite.
He was also active in the civil rights movement.

I had the pleasure of hearing him live, including a very memorable benefit concert for Eldridge Cleaver, when Cleaver returned to the United States. Cleaver had abandoned the third world revolution temptation and not yet embraced nutty right-wing views. For a brief moment, his politics were sane, democratic left. Bayard Rustin organized a defense/support group and brought in many leaders in the African-American community.

Roach's performance that night was marvelous. Normally, I detest drum solos, but Roach could play the drums musically. In fact, he went from using the entire drum set, eliminating one component at a time until he was just down to the hi-hat. The way I remember it, he actually had the various drums and cymbals removed, but maybe that is memomry playing tricks.

You tube has some wonderful clips of Roach performing.

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