© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Embellishing a style introduced by Kenny Clarke a few years earlier, Roach devised a fresh approach to playing his instrument that initially mystified and thoroughly challenged other drummers. On his first recordings with Parker, he displayed a highly responsive, contrapuntal style. The time was established on the hi-hat or top cymbals, rather than the snare and bass drums. A regular pulse, softly played on the bass drum, provided a foundation (or "bottom") for the music. This was a holdover from the old way of playing. Added to the recipe were comments on accents made on the snare and bass drums, often in close conjunction.
In essence, Roach worked with techniques out of the drums' lively tradition, some of them stemming from Jo Jones, some from Sid Catlett, more than a few from Kenny Clarke, and combined them with techniques he invented himself. His performances were highlighted by singular patterns that were used in fills and solos and also appeared in one form or another when he played a purely supportive role. He consistently showed how to effectively use space, silence and dynamics. Roach made a case for the drummer as a musician.
Because he practiced incessantly and was a player who performed around the clock, Roach developed admirable technique and coordination. He concentrated on what drummers call independence, playing different rhythms with each appendage, which created new levels of interest for the attentive listener. He began to liberate the drum set in a major way. His talent, razor-sharp mind and inventive approach to music resulted in new applications of drum rudiments and increased use and integration of the bass drum, cymbals and hi-hat.
It was no longer just a matter of announcing time and establishing a groove. Roach took things way beyond that, bringing into play his sensitivity to sound and the so-called melodic possibilities of the instrument, while venturing into previously unexplored areas of drum set technique.”
- Burt Korall, insert notes to The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions [Mosaic Records MD7-201]
The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is hard at work on an extended piece about drummer Max Roach, who along with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Charles Mingus, deserves to be recognized as one of the creators of Bebop and the style of music that predominated the post World War II modern Jazz movement.
While this feature is in the works, we thought we’d call your attention to the following announcement which appeared in the April 24, 2014 edition of Downbeat Magazine. and to the video tribute to Max that follows it.
© -Geoffrey Himes/Downbeat, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“At a public ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, 2014 the Library of Congress unveiled the Max Roach Legacy Collection, the drummer's personal papers, recordings and memorabilia, which the library had acquired from the Roach family a year earlier.
To give a sense of the roughly 100,000 items in the holdings, samples were spread across two tables. At the end of one table were several artifacts related to Roach's landmark 1961 album, We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite. The artifacts include the contract with Candid Records, the original, unused album artwork, a program from a live performance and a portion of the score written in Roach's own hand.
Roach was a collector. He saved anything that might document his career: contracts, photos, posters, programs, reel-to-reel tapes, rehearsal cassettes, videos, scores, written correspondence, address books, date books, magazines, newspaper clippings and more. The documentation filled the basement cage of his Upper West Side apartment building; it spread out to as many as three self-storage units.
One item in the Library of Congress collection that jazz historians will be particularly interested in is the unpublished manuscript for an autobiography that Roach had worked on with writer Amiri Baraka (who died Jan. 9, 2014).
"He had a strong sense of his place in history, and he wanted it documented," the drummer's oldest daughter, Maxine Roach, said at the Library of Congress. "In the last years of his life, I asked him, 'What do you want us to do with all the stuff you have in storage?' He said, 'I don't care where it goes, but I want it to stay together.'"
Maxine Roach had attended the April 2010 unveiling of the Dexter Gordon Collection at the Library of Congress with Maxine Gordon, Dexter's widow. Roach was so impressed by the experience that she convinced her stepmother and her four siblings to give the Max Roach Collection the same home.
"When we were kids, they were just boxes of junk," said Maxine's brother Daryl. "But as I got older, when I spent a summer setting up his drum kit at European festivals, I realized he was more than just my dad. And now, seeing some of the stuff in those boxes, it's like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I can see the breadth of his associations. I can see that he wanted to be viewed not just as a musician but also in a sociopolitical-economic context. He was a holistic thinker."
The Library of Congress plans to create a searchable database of all the artifacts in the collection. If a musician, academic, journalist or blogger wants to research the Freedom Now Suite, for example, he or she can request it and the staff will know which carton contains the related materials. The staff will bring the materials to a table at the library's reading room so that the person doing research can examine them up close.
"The purpose of these archives is not to collect boxes and put them on the shelf," said Larry Appelbaum, senior music reference librarian and jazz specialist at the Library of Congress. "We want people to come and use them."”
The following video tribute to Max is set to George Coleman’s Shirley from Max Roach + 4 On The Chicago Scene [EmArcy 36132; Mosaic MD7-201]. In addition to George on tenor saxophone and Max on drums, the quintet includes Booker Little on trumpet, Eddie Baker on piano and Bob Cranshaw on bass.
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