Max Roach

Maxwell Lemuel Roach, January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007, to parents Alphonse Roach and Cressie Roach. He was a jazz composer, drummer, and percussionist of international standing. Roach and Charles Mingus co-founded Debut Records in 1952. The label issued a recording of a concert called “Jazz at Massey Hall”, which was widely regarded as the “greatest concert ever.” It also featured Charlie Parker, DizzyGillespie, Bud Powell and Mingus. The groundbreaking “Percussion Discussion” improvisation was also released by this label. He formed a quintet with Clifford Brown, Harold Land, Richie Powell (brother to Bud Powell), and George Morrow in 1954. However, Land left the band the year after and Sonny Rollins replaced Land. This group was an excellent example of hard bop, which also featured Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Unfortunately, the group was short-lived when Powell and Brown were killed in a car crash on Pennsylvania Turnpike June 1956. Roach continued to lead a similar group with Kenny Dorham, Powell, and later Booker Little on trumpet. Ray Bryant was the pianist and George Coleman on the tenor. His 1957 album Jazz In 3/4 Time expanded the hard-bop style using 3/4 waltz rhythms. Roach also recorded several albums during this time for EmArcy, featuring the brothers Stanley Turrentine and Tommy Turrentine. In 1960, he wrote the We Insist! After being invited to participate in commemorations of the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, he composed the Freedom Now Suite with lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr. His career would include a significant portion of using his musical talents to make comments on the African-American experience. Roach was blacklisted by the American record industry during the 1960s. With Drums Unlimited, his 1966 album (which features several drums solos), he demonstrated that drums could be used as a solo instrument that can play rhythmically coherent phrases and theme variations. His approach to music was described as “the creation and organization of sound.” The classic Money Jungle 1962 with Mingus, Duke Ellington and Roach is one of the most important records. It is widely regarded as one the greatest trio albums ever recorded. Roach founded M’Boom, a unique musical group that was a percussion ensemble in the 1970s. The members of this unit were able to compose for it and perform on many percussion instruments. The group included Omar Clay and Ray Mantilla, Francisco Mora and Eli Fountain. Roach didn’t stop at expanding on the musical territory for which he was already well-known. He spent the 80s and 90s constantly finding new ways to express himself musically and present it. He began to present entire concerts alone in the early 1980s. This proved that the multi-percussion instrument could be used solo and still satisfy the needs of an audience. These solo concerts were memorable and Bay State, a Japanese record label, released a solo album. Video of one of his solo concerts is now available. It also features a recording of the date for “Chattahoochee red,” which features Odean Pope and Cecil Bridgewater. He began a series recording duets. He decided to abandon the traditional presentation style and record the music in free improvisation with avant-garde musicians Cecil Taylor (Anthony Braxton), Archie Shepp, Abdullah Ibrahim, Connie Crothers, and Archie Shepp. He also recorded duets with other performers, including a recording of a duet featuring Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” oration; a duet recorded with Kit Fitzgerald, who improvised video imagery and Roach created the music; a classic duet recording with Dizzy Gillespie; and a concert duet recording with Mal Waldron. He composed music for theatre, including plays by Sam Shephard that were presented at La Mama E.T.C. New York City. He created unique musical ensembles by finding new contexts. “The Double Quartet” was one of these groups. His regular performing quartet was there, with Tyrone Brown replacing Hill. This quartet was joined by “The Uptown String Quartet,” which Maxine Roach’s daughter Maxine led, and included Diane Monroe, Lesa Terry, and Eileen Folson. The “So What Brass Quintet” was another ensemble. It consisted of Roach and five brass instruments, with no chordal instrumnent or bass player. The performance was mainly drumming and horn duets. The ensemble included two trumpets, trombones, French horn, tuba, and trombone. Cecil Bridgewater and Frank Gordon were among the musicians. Roach performed his music with gospel choruses and orchestras. He performed a concerto for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He performed and wrote for the Walter White gospel choir as well as the John Motley singers. Roach danced with the Alvin Aily Dance Company and the Dianne McIntyre Dance Company. Roach performed in a hip-hop concert with Fab Five Freddy, the New York Break Dancers and other artists in the 80s. Roach expressed the realization that there was a strong connection between the expressions of these young black artists, and the art he had been pursuing all his life. He maintained his connection to his musical roots even as he explored new territories over the course of his life. Clark Terry, his long-standing friend and trumpet player, recorded “Friendship”, his last recording. You can also find user-contributed text under the Creative Commons By–SA License.

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