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Max Roach



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Max Roach was not the first bebop drummer (Kenny Clarke was), but he was the most influential bebop drummer.  A technically brilliant drummer, he played the drums "melodically" and played with a looseness and also played little duets with other players.  In addition to all of this, he invented many rhythmic "fill-ins" that are still used today.  He mastered the ride cymbal and played endless variations on it while keeping the beat going.

Roach was born in 1924 in North Carolina.  His aunt taught him to play the piano at the age of eight.  He read music, which was rare for drummers at the time.  At the age of 16, he filled in for three nights in Duke Ellington's band.  When he was 18, he played one night with Charlie Parker.  At 19, he played with Coleman Hawkins and at 20, he played with Dizzy Gillespie.  He worked in the legendary Charlie Parker quintet from 1946-49 (that included Miles Davis).  

In 1954, he formed a quintet with Clifford Brown and included Sonny Rollins on tenor sax and Ritchie Powell (Bud's brother) on piano, that became the premiere hard bop group of the time and one of the most important groups in jazz history.  The tragic death of Brown and Powell in a car accident devastated the jazz world, but particularly Roach.  He continued to lead groups throughout the 50s, but never could put together anything near the quality of the group with Brown, until he started playing with Booker Little, who also died tragically young, at the age of 23.

Roach turned attention to politics in the early 60s and recorded his We Insist--Freedom Now! suite which featured the voice of his wife Abbey Lincoln.  He became associated with the free jazz movement.  From 1970-76, out of protest of the exploitation of black musicians, he refused to allow his records to be sold in the United States, even after he joined the musical faculty at the University of Massachusetts in 1972!  In the early 70s, he recorded with an experimental percussion ensemble called M'Boom Re, which made a point of utilizing Third World percussion instruments.  Since then, he has taken part in many projects, such as the Max Roach double quartet, which used an all-female string quartet, and many choral works.

To learn more about Max Roach, check out this site:

Max Roach - from Europe Jazz Network

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