\"I think of Sid Catlett as being the last of the swing drummers. Max Roach, to me, is the first bebop drummer. Kenny Clarke was the bridge.\"
Isolde Lasoen explains how Roach expanded drumming from a limited way of playing a constant groove to a much more melodic approach:
\"Along with Kenny Clarke, Max Roach changed the role of the drummer drastically in the 1940s. Prior to Roach, during the swing period, he drummer had a purely rythmic role. Bebop drummers such as Roach brought a revolution. They approached the drums in a different way. The accompaniment became much more musically, more freely, and the soloists were followed perfectly by the rhythm section. Drum solos became common, they became the drummer\'s chance to show his most expressive side as a musician. Max Roach and his colleagues elevated drumming to a creative event. The drummer\'s role became just as important as the other artists on stage; drummers were (finally) fully considered musicians.\"
To put it in the words of Hans Greeve:
\"In the endless chain of musical development Max Roach was a link of priceless value.\"
In a 1988 essay in The New York Times, Wynton Marsalis wrote of Roach:
\"All great instrumentalists have a superior quality of sound, and his is one of the marvels of contemporary music... The roundness and nobility of sound on the drums and the clarity and precision of the cymbals distinguishes Max Roach as a peerless master.\"
\"You were an inspiration to say the least. For someone I have never met, you have shaped my life and career. Thank you for that.\"
\"To me, Max Roach really epitomized (and still does) the tradition of fierce innovation and evolution that made Jazz the incredible cultural force it was during first half of last century. He kicked the doors open for others to just walk through as he passed on the fire and didnít pray to the ashes. His musical legacy is one of pioneering spirit and courage. His direct influence on me is not primarily the one as a drummer, but as a icon for an artistic attitude. Thanks Max!\"
\"I never met Max Roach but he defined the concept of melodic drumming to me as I listened to the recordings on which he appeared. His sense of line and use of space helped pull the drum solo out of the bang, bang, boom, bash approach and all of the sudden you could hear the melody and hear the changes when he played. He also defined the \"Blue Note sound\" by the way he tuned his drums and by his choice of cymbals. It\'s great that he will live on as people listen to the classics on which he appeared.\"
Carl Allen did meet Max Roach and looks back to that very gratefully:
\"Max was very helpful to me over the years. Of course he had a huge impact on me musically and personally. As for my fondest memory of Max there are many. I remember as a young drummer I would try to transcribe his playing and always in awe of his technical command of the instrument as well as his melodic approach to the instrument. His playing was clean and precise and had what I called a \'military drumming approach\' in a way. So, once I saw Max and we were just hanging and talking and I asked him, \'So, Max what do you practice?\' He looked around as if someone was watching us and said \'Singles and Doubles!\'. That was all he said, so I asked him again and again the same answer. This went on for about 10 minutes in between other chit chat. After a while he finally said, \'Carl: everything you play is a single, double or multiple bounce\'. That clarified a lot for me. Not only about his playing but drumming in general. Also, it should not overlooked that not only was Mr. Roach a master musician, a creator, pioneer of drumming, an innovator but he was also a great man of integrity, class and a real gentleman. The last time I saw Mr. Roach was at Elvin Jones\' funeral where we spoke and briefly and he gave me some encouraging words. I will miss him forever...\"
Eliot Zigmund heard the news while driving to a gig. He immediately turned on WKCR (Columbia University radio in NYC) and they had already started a week of non-stop 24 hour Max Roach music and interviews. Zigmund:
\"I was certainly influenced by Max as a young drummer by two records in particular - \'Saxophone Colossus\' (Sonny Rollins) and what I believe was called \'Monk\'s Music\', with a picture of Monk sitting in a child\'s wagon. His playing on both those records left a really strong impression on me, great sound, great solos, and very innovative, especially on the Monk record where he played timpani on Bemsha Swing. Also, his solo on the St. Thomas (\'Colossus\') was a classic that was indelibly burned into my brain.
Max Roach was one of a select group of drummers that you could instantly recognize on record and that in itself says it all. When I worked with Bill Evans I had the pleasure of playing in a kind of traveling jazz festival featuring Max\'s group, Clark Terry\'s group and Bill\'s trio. We travelled around the states for a couple of weeks and I got a chance to spend some time with Max and get to know him a little and to hear him play every night. That was an experience I will always treasure. Max Roach will be missed!\"
Ron van Stratum explains how Max Roach belonged to the obligatorily study material during Van Stratum\'s time at the Conservatory:
\"I remember I initially thought of him as just an ordinary jazzdrummer, nothing particular. People told me how Roach\'s drumming had a melodic approach had. Well, I couldn\'t hear it. However, after some time I (fortunately) got more and more insight in jazz music, by listening and of course playing it a lot. As a result I more and more began to appreciate and realise what people such as Max Roach have meant for the development of jazz drums and jazz music. This happened in particular when I had to practice one of his famous solos, The Drum Also Waltzes, for an examination. After two bars I realized: this is gonna be hard, both technically and musically. Max Roach was important for drums as Miles Davis, Bird (Charlie Parker) and Thelonious Monk Monk on their instruments.\"
Although Paul Wertico knew Max was ill, it came as a shock when the inevitable finally hit. Wertico:
\"I have many fond memories of Max, and yes, I met him and heard him play numerous times. He was a true gentleman and a musical genius. He also had a strong political presence and his role during the civil rights movement gave fellow musicians a sense of dignity and pride. There are a lot of recordings of his that I absolutely love, but one of my personal favorites (besides all the obvious ones) is \'Members, Don\'t Git Weary\'. It was recorded in the late 1960s and his playing is totally fresh and daring and really expresses a type of hopeful vibe of where jazz was headed during that period. Check it out, if you don\'t already know it!
Of course, he was an huge influence on my playing as well. His melodic playing, compositional ideas and remarkable technique changed the way every serious drummer approached their instrument. There\'s a track on my cd \'The Yin And The Yout\', entitled The Max Factor, which is a spontaneously improvised electronic drum solo. I called it that because after I finished playing it, I felt it sounded a bit like something Max might have played, even though that was not my intention. So, there is some definite proof of his influence on me. Anyway, words always fail at times like these, so I\'ll just say: Rest in peace, Max, and thanks you for the music.\"
Erk Willemsen of Dutch magazine Slagwerkkrant:
\"Max Roach one of my favorite drummers? Definitely! In 1977 I visited North Sea Jazz Festival for the first time. Max Roach was performing on a red Ludwig. One year late I bought the same kit. I still have it. His concert was an eye opener. I had never seen someone play a drum kit so melodic. Because of Roach I developed a soft spot for later drummers such as Bill Bruford and Terry Bozzio.\"
Sebastiaan de Krom, drummer with Jamie Cullum:
\"Of course Max Roach was a huge influence on me and he still is one of my favorite drummers. He was the second drummer I ever heard that I thought of as simply fantastic (Philly Joe Jones being the first). His solo licks are established among bebop drummers. He was also a fantastic drummer, just listen to B. Quick and B. Swift, which he recorded with Sonny Rollins. Super fast (an impressive stamina because one of the songs is almost ten minutes in duration), and never on the auto pilot, but always creative. And speaking about creativity: what about his double time playing on Thelonious Monk\'s Carolina Moon? That\'s great, isn\'t it?
I met Max Roach only once. He was a bit grumpy then. I was hunting autographs at North Sea Jazz Festival in the lobby of Bel Air hotel (I was only 16 at the time, haha) and Max was already a hero to me, but he didn\'t give me an autograph. Too bad.
I\'d like to conclude by recommending a couple of albums. Personally I liked Max the best from 1944 - 1966. One recording is hardly ever mentioned: \'Drums Unlimited\'. This is an fantastic album containing six songs: three with a band, and three solo pieces. The music still sounds very fresh today. Also the albums \'Max Roach + 4\', \'Jazz in 3/4 Time\' (the first album dedicated to waltzes, which was very unusual back then), \'Deeds\', \'Not Words\', and \'Award-Winning Drummer\' show Max Roach as a band leader topping other band leading drummers such as Art Blakey and Shelly Manne. The records boast experimental and surprising playing without loosing the musical nature. We drummers can still learn a lot from that.\"
\"Max Roach was the Steve Gadd of his time: an honest beacon at the realms of groove.\"
You can listen to WKCR\'s Max Roach Memorial (mp3-stream) here. It will be broadcasted until Wednesday August, 22, 2007.
Or watch three Max Roach drum solos (For Big Sid, Drums Unlimited and Five for One), recorded at Tivoli Konsertsal in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 29, 1968:
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