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5 minutes that will make you love Max Roach


The opening track, ‘Abstrutions’, subtly invites the listener to explore Roach’s innovative approach to rhythm, form, timbre and improvisation. ‘Abstrutions’ arguably challenges the traditional idea of ​​the blues form, extending the final phrase four bars with a captivating unison horn call accompanied by a powerful drum roll to bring us back to the top. With the backing of Roach’s increasingly robust playing, the horn lines intensify in response to pianist Stanley Cowell’s commanding improvisation. Roach’s rhythmic agility is felt as the phrase kicks off with a seemingly out of place beat that keeps listeners on their toes. “Abstrutions” has all the essence of avant-garde jazz but feels both inherently soulful and funky. Roach’s intentional play on tension and release speaks to his distinctive style of composition and the meaningful inclusion of the sentiment of protest and activism.

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I discovered and fell in love with jazz during my studies. For nearly four years, I spent my Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the listening room of the campus radio station — KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, Calif. — delving deep into its record collection. immaculate. My understanding of the jazz genre came from this place, playing records, finding something I liked, watching the staff, then rummaging through this artist’s discography (this was before the internet, mind you) in the stacks of vinyls. From this study, I was able to pinpoint the records, musicians and bands at the forefront of change in the genre – and at every step there was Max Roach. “Drums Unlimited” was the first time I heard compositions for drums and only for drums. Roach has seemed to regularly dislodge convention, for decades, but here, on the title track, he’s simply a master of the craft – musically, socially, culturally. There it is, with fascinating beat and rhythm; a circular thrust that feels like the start of a revolution. He gives a musical voice to what he will later articulate, forcefully, verbally in the struggle of blacks for liberation. When we were shooting “Summer of Soul,” Roach’s set at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival (with his then-wife, Abbey Lincoln) started with a similar drum solo (sorry, that didn’t make the final film !), and all I could think of was this piece – a persistent genius, armed with will and intellect, in his element, desperately seeking freedom.

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Often the drum is the heartbeat of a song. He gives it life and guides it to the last note. On ‘Freedom Day’, Max’s drumming depicts a heart struggling with the emotions of becoming a free human being. You feel anticipation, anxiety, strength and even uncertainty. Abbey Lincoln’s voice, while not perfectly in sync with the melody, is still perfectly placed as it represents the honesty of not being sure of what’s to come and the power that comes from knowing you are ready to face it.

Max himself said, “We don’t really understand what it means to be free,” but you can hear him feeling free enough to let out a whole range of emotions with every lick and snare drum. which allows other musicians like trumpeter Booker Little to follow. suit. The message “We insist! The album was particularly significant, in that after its release Max vowed never to play music that was not socially relevant. I would be remiss if I did not mention the album cover as well, which is a lunch counter sit-in staged like the Greensboro Four sit-in of 1960, which took place months before the recording of this album.

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Few drummers have reached the level of innovation and influence of Max Roach throughout his long and prolific career. During the bebop era, he, along with Kenny Clarke, transformed the way drummers approached their sets. This approach was part of the sound base that my ears picked up when I first encountered jazz. “Joy Spring,” recorded with the legendary and tragically short-lived Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet, is a jazz classic and a personal favorite. From the start of the drum hits, I feel a buoyancy that carries me throughout the song. Roach’s brushes make a steady motion punctuated by deep pocket strokes – he manages to maintain a delicate balance of high energy and softness. It receives an attack from these brushes as it flows and accentuates the variations within the melody, the nimble solo filled with its characteristic triplet patterns. His drums sing to me as much as Clifford’s trumpet or Harold Land’s saxophone. I can’t listen to this recording without a smile on my face. I’m transported back to when a lot of this music was new. “Joy Spring” stays fresh in my ears with every listen.

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I had been fascinated by the rumors surrounding the recording of “Money Jungle” for a while. The trio’s album of Roach, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington was a generational bridge between a swing idol and bop ancestors, but Mingus reportedly left the session in 1962 because of something Roach played or said. being coaxed back by Ellington himself.