Max Roach

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Max Roach, 1979

Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach (* 10. January 1924 in Newland Township , North Carolina ; † 16th August 2007 in New York City , New York ) was an American jazz - drummer and composer .

He became known as a bebop and hard-bop musician who has performed with the greatest jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie , Charlie Parker , Duke Ellington , Charles Mingus , Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins . Roach is considered to be one of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz .

Live and act

Max Roach was the son of Alphonse and Cressie Roach; his family moved to Brooklyn, New York City when he was four years old. He grew up in a musical family. His mother was a gospel singer. He himself began playing the signal trumpet in marching bands at an early age . At the age of ten he played drums in several gospel bands. He made his first big appearance at 16 - replacing Sonny Greer at a Duke Ellington Orchestra concert in New York .

Max Roach, Three Deuces, NYC, circa October 1947 (photography by William P. Gottlieb )

He studied composition and music theory at the Manhattan School of Music until his graduation in 1952 . Meanwhile, Roach had occasionally joined bands in Minton's Playhouse before he took Kenny Clarke's place in Coleman Hawkins' band (1943). In 1944 he played with Dizzy Gillespie, but also briefly with Duke Ellington and then spent a year in Benny Carter's band . He was one of the first bebop drummers: in 1945 he was employed in the Gillespie Big Band, but also performed in clubs with Charlie Parker. In 1946 he played with Stan Getz and then worked in Parker's band until 1949, with whom he performed in May 1949 at the Paris Festival International 1949 de Jazz . He then led his own groups.

In 1952 Max Roach founded the music label Debut Records with Charles Mingus , probably the first independent music -owned label . Debut Records also released his own debut as a band leader in 1953, two sessions that Roach recorded with saxophonist Hank Mobley in April and which are now in circulation under the title The Max Roach Quartet featuring Hank Mobley . He also made several records with Mingus, including the memorable 1953 Jazz at Massey Hall concert with Parker, Gillespie and Bud Powell . He then worked in California, where he led a quintet together with trumpeter Clifford Brown , which also included Sonny Rollins and pianist Richie Powell , Bud Powell's brother. With this group he created the hard bop style. Because of Brown and Richie Powell's sudden accidental death in 1956, Roach fell into depression and alcoholism.

In 1960 he recorded the concept album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite , in which he convincingly translated the political message of the civil rights movement with Coleman Hawkins, Babatunde Olatunji and the singer Abbey Lincoln . We insist! Freedom Now Suite has also become a subject for choreographers, filmmakers and off-Broadway stage plays. Because of this recording, Roach was boycotted by the record companies in the 1960s. As he did there, he worked with other percussionists and drummers in his later group M'Boom . In 1962 he started working with Duke Ellington ( Money Jungle ).

His band included musicians like Donald Byrd , Kenny Dorham , Booker Little , George Coleman , Stanley Turrentine , Billy Harper , Mal Waldron , Ray Bryant , Odean Pope and Cecil Bridgewater . For special projects he integrated vocal soloists, but also choirs and a string quartet into this band. In the 1970s and 1980s he frequently played duos with Archie Shepp , Anthony Braxton , Cecil Taylor , Connie Crothers and Abdullah Ibrahim . In the 1980s he also worked with a double quartet consisting of his own ensemble and the Uptown String Quartet . He was one of the first jazz musicians to work with rappers and break dancers .

Roach's grave in the Bronx

From 1972 Max Roach was a professor at the Music Faculty of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst , until he retired in 2002 because of Alzheimer's disease . In 1988 he was a MacArthur Fellow . In 1991 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters . The University of Pennsylvania awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2004 . Max Roach died in a New York hospital on August 16, 2007, at the age of 83.


In his first marriage, he was married to Mildred Roach, with whom he had two children, his son Daryl and daughter Maxine, who is now a violinist and who founded the Uptown String Quartet . In 1954 he met the singer Barbara Jai ​​(Johnson); from this connection comes his son Raoul Jordu. Roach was married to the singer Abbey Lincoln from 1962 to 1970 , whom he accompanied on numerous albums. The twin daughters Ayodele and Dara Rasheeda come from his third marriage to Janus Adams Roach.

Discographic notes

as a sideman
  • Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy Studio Recordings (1945-48)
  • JJ Johnson : Mad Be Bop (1946)
  • Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (1949)
  • Jazz at Massey Hall (also The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever ) (with Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, 1953)
  • Charles Mingus: The Charles Mingus Quartet plus Max Roach (1955)
  • Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (1956)



Web links

Commons : Max Roach  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. According to a Max Roach interview with Phil Schaap, the Darmstadt Jazz Institute has a different date of birth ( memento of the original from September 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on January 8, 1924 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. "Bebop inventor. Jazz legend Max Roach has died ” , Spiegel Online , August 17, 2007
  3. Max Roach biography ( Memento of the original from February 29, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ Honorary Members: Max Roach. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 2, 2019 .
  5. Penn to Present Honorary Degrees to Bono, Four Others At the University's 248th Commencement May 17 , May 7, 2004, University of Pennsylvania website