Saturday, August 18, 2007

Max Roach dies

photo from All About Jazz
jazz drummer Max RoachI heard the sad news during my drive home from Atlanta. The great drummer Max Roach has died.

As Dizzy Gillepsie put it, Max Roach was a musician first. He approached jazz rhythms in a contrapuntal manner; and he approached drumming as part of the melodic line.

If not the originator, Roach was the seminal drummer for bebop and post-WWII jazz. With trumpet great Clifford Brown, Roach created several musically-important recordings in the mid 1950s, such as this eponymous album.

My personal favorite album is one he recorded 3 decades later with his quartet of that time: Chattahoochee Red, a now out-of-print LP (never transferred to CD or digital tracks). The title track is simply gorgeous.

Referring to Mr. Roach solely as a jazz drummer disregards the canon of his work. Percussionist might be a better appellation. He was active and influential in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s; with Charles Mingus he co-founded a record label. Read this appreciation.

I saw Mr. Roach perform live only once: at Wolf Trap Farm Park. After the standard set, he dismissed the other musicians, and proceeded to play solo. He utilized his entire drum kit: every piece, metal stem, every wingnut. It was amazing, mesmerizing, and musical.

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