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***** Max Roach Corner *****

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I like marches - and I think they can swing -

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Absolutely.

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I think it all goes together somehow...

He's a marcher, he's an intellectual, he was going an organized path all the way (dig how he structures his solos, how he stays in the form, how you can follow him through the changes even in some cases).

(And I don't mean the intellectual part in a negative way, of course... just because there's often some kind of vague anti-intellectualism going on hereabouts... I'm not part of that!)

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and it's interesting, because I know people who think he doesn't swing on Bird's records, or on Saxophone Collossus, because, I think, they don't understand the profoundly mechanistic aspects of his style - machine-like, yes, and that, in some ways, is exactly the point. I see that style of playing as an explicit rejection fo certain bourgeouisie musical values, as much of early bebop, in its speeed of execution, implicitly was. It represents a deeper mode of feeling than certain kinds of sentiment.

but I don't think that is the issue, for me, on the later recordings, in which he appears to be so intent on altering the sound of his playing to fit newer styles that he's lost sight of the connection between the vertical and horizontal aspect of his playing. It all becomes more vertical; this might work with some drummers, but to my ears it doesn't always work with Roach -

Edited by AllenLowe

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yet a lot of his post 1960s work I find self-consciously "modern," as though in trying to keep up with the times he'd forgotten certain fundamentals and lost some of his sense of swing (which to begin with was unconventional - like a brilliant and emotional machine, I would say, and that is NOT a criticism - as a matter of fact, his mechanistic side is what I find most fascinating and "modern" about his playing) -

I agree 100% with this statement, despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy his playing during this period.

Some of my favorite drumming of Max's that doesn't seem to get discussed much is his work in JJ Johnson's combos on Columbia, which were compiled in the OOP Mosaic. Very inspired.

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and it's interesting, because I know people who think he doesn't swing on Bird's records, or on Saxophone Collossus, because, I think, they don't understand the profoundly mechanistic aspects of his style - machine-like, yes, and that, in some ways, is exactly the point. I see that style of playing as an explicit rejection fo certain bourgeouisie musical values, as much of early bebop, in its speeed of execution, implicitly was. It represents a deeper mode of feeling than certain kinds of sentiment.

but I don't think that is the issue, for me, on the later recordings, in which he appears to be so intent on altering the sound of his playing to fit newer styles that he's lost sight of the connection between the vertical and horizontal aspect of his playing. It all becomes more vertical; this might work with some drummers, but to my ears it doesn't always work with Roach -

revolutionary? I guess so... beyond simple questions of musical stylistics...

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yet a lot of his post 1960s work I find self-consciously "modern," as though in trying to keep up with the times he'd forgotten certain fundamentals and lost some of his sense of swing (which to begin with was unconventional - like a brilliant and emotional machine, I would say, and that is NOT a criticism - as a matter of fact, his mechanistic side is what I find most fascinating and "modern" about his playing) -

I agree 100% with this statement, despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy his playing during this period.

Some of my favorite drumming of Max's that doesn't seem to get discussed much is his work in JJ Johnson's combos on Columbia, which were compiled in the OOP Mosaic. Very inspired.

The quartet date with J.J. and Flanagan? Indeed Max is terrific there - in a league of his own!

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but I don't think that is the issue, for me, on the later recordings, in which he appears to be so intent on altering the sound of his playing to fit newer styles that he's lost sight of the connection between the vertical and horizontal aspect of his playing. It all becomes more vertical; this might work with some drummers, but to my ears it doesn't always work with Roach -

Totally, but respectfully, disagree. If anything, the horizonticality :blink: is what becomes exaggerated to my ears.

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To me, Max has always been about melody on the drums. I think of him more as a singer than a dancer or marcher. Live, it always astonished me just how much music he could get out of the hi-hat. He also feeds my jones for the dramatic.

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I see the style of many post-Elvin drummers as being more vertically oriented - as being concerned more and more with the rising sound of the drums, of the momentary blast and resonance of the set, as opposed to the (horizontal) propulsion that we might conventionally call swing - I see Max as trying to emulate this vertical wave of sound, but in doing so becoming somewhat turgid in his playing - not having (possibly because of ingrained musical habits) the feel for making the connection/transition between these vertical outbursts and the horizontal idea of keeping (ie swing) time.

it also involves a personal miscalculation of his talents, IMHO. It's like Paul Bley saying that ultimately the Sonny Rollins of Our Man In Jazz was a worthy experiement, but that Sonny needed to return to the area he knew best - standard chord changes - in order to advance his own personal art. I feel the same way about Max -

Edited by AllenLowe

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I see the style of many post-Elvin drummers as being more vertically oriented - as being concerned more and more with the rising sound of the drums, of the momentary blast and resonance of the set, as opposed to the (horizontal) propulsion that we might conventionally call swing - I see Max as trying to emulate this vertical wave of sound, but in doing so becoming somewhat turgid in his playing - not having (possibly because of ingrained musical habits) the feel for making the connection/transition between these vertical outbursts and the horizontal idea of keeping (ie swing) time.

it also involves a personal miscalculation of his talents, IMHO. It's like Paul Bley saying that ultimately the Sonny Rollins of Our Man In Jazz was a worthy experiement, but that Sonny needed to return to the area he knew best - standard chord changes - in order to advance his own personal art. I feel the same way about Max -

Would your use of horizontal vs. vertical fit with Tony Williams' development (from a terrific unorthodox "horizontal" player to a mostly rather boring "vertically oriented" player)? Not sure I get this terminology...

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yet a lot of his post 1960s work I find self-consciously "modern," as though in trying to keep up with the times he'd forgotten certain fundamentals and lost some of his sense of swing (which to begin with was unconventional - like a brilliant and emotional machine, I would say, and that is NOT a criticism - as a matter of fact, his mechanistic side is what I find most fascinating and "modern" about his playing) -

I agree 100% with this statement, despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy his playing during this period.

Some of my favorite drumming of Max's that doesn't seem to get discussed much is his work in JJ Johnson's combos on Columbia, which were compiled in the OOP Mosaic. Very inspired.

The quartet date with J.J. and Flanagan? Indeed Max is terrific there - in a league of his own!

Yep. There were a few dates with that quartet if I remember correctly. Those are probably my favorite recorded trombone quartet sessions that I've heard since getting into jazz, and Max had alot to do with that!

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yet a lot of his post 1960s work I find self-consciously "modern," as though in trying to keep up with the times he'd forgotten certain fundamentals and lost some of his sense of swing (which to begin with was unconventional - like a brilliant and emotional machine, I would say, and that is NOT a criticism - as a matter of fact, his mechanistic side is what I find most fascinating and "modern" about his playing) -

I agree 100% with this statement, despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy his playing during this period.

Some of my favorite drumming of Max's that doesn't seem to get discussed much is his work in JJ Johnson's combos on Columbia, which were compiled in the OOP Mosaic. Very inspired.

The quartet date with J.J. and Flanagan? Indeed Max is terrific there - in a league of his own!

Yep. There were a few dates with that quartet if I remember correctly. Those are probably my favorite recorded trombone quartet sessions that I've heard since getting into jazz, and Max had alot to do with that!

I think the Mosaic has two full CDs from those date(s), but I don't have it at hand... will think of listening to these again as soon as possible!

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"Would your use of horizontal vs. vertical fit with Tony Williams' development (from a terrific unorthodox "horizontal" player to a mostly rather boring "vertically oriented" player)? Not sure I get this terminology... "

Williams is a weird case; not sure what happened to him, but he really lost his individuality.

My feeling is that drum playing for many became more "vertical" after Elvin, as the time-keeping emphasis moved away fom the high hat and ride cymbal and got spread around the drum set - the drum sound became almost more suspended, and vertical in the sense that the time keeping centered more around ringing and responant sounds that sustained themselves above and around the beat instead of maintaining a metronomic relationship to the beat - I realize this is a little vague, but it's somewhat akin to the differnce betwen Lester Young (vertical player) and Coleman Hwakins (horizontal) - the vertical player is more concerned with longer-held sounds or notes that suspend themselves above and around the points of rhythmic demarcation; the horizontal player is basically walking in a relatively straight and continuous line. Of course, this is an over-simplification, but also similar to the type of things George Russell talks about with modal (vertical) improvisers as opposed to those who move horizontally through a succession of arpeggio defined (or really referenced) chord skips -

to carry this to its extreme, Rashid Ali, playing out of time, is more a vertical player; Joe Jones, with linear time, is a horizontal player - the beboppers, to a large extent, began the integration of the vertical and the horrizontal - the "bombs" and accents being vertical interruptions of the horizontal beat -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Ok, I think I roughly get your point. A moment of confusion surrounded your Hawk/Pres example, as I'd usually put it different, but then in respect to the harmonic/melodic dimension (Pres "floating" easily and detached on top of the chords - horizontal, while Hawk does the vertical outplaying of each and every note that's ok within the given chord).

Anyway, I think it makes sense to me what you're saying.

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I tend to think that for Max's generation of musician, the kind of vertical playing that dominates in the post-Elvin era does not come naturally; I've heard Roy Haynes do it very nicely, but than, he was a much different kind of drummer than Max. I have heard Max play some wonderful solo drums (Boston, circa 1975) that to me nearly reached such a synthesis; his group playing has, to me, been less successful -

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i still think tony williams went partially deaf or something during his lifetime days from rocking so hard and it affected his playing.

i have no evidence.

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Williams is a weird case; not sure what happened to him, but he really lost his individuality.

And yet, every record that he's on, even the later ones, he sounds like nobody but Tony Williams, and only a jazz illiterate would identify him as anybody else in a blindfold test. Funny how you can lose your individuality and still have that quality in place...

Same w/Max - you say something along the same lines about him, and yet,,,DAMN, how can you listen to any Max Roach record of the last 35-40 years and not know immediately (if not sooner) that it's Max f-ing Roach? You can't!

Such terminology is careless, I think. I you don't like the direction somebody takes, that's one thing. But that's a matter of "artistic choice", We have these type points brought out periodically about Max, Sonny, Art Pepper, Harold Land, and a few otehrs, I'm sure. Like "so-and-do" changed their style to try and be more modern and they lost their individuality", I don't buy that for one second. If a cat wants to take on new challenges, hey, go for it. Don't look back.

Now, if you do that from the starting point of an already distinctively personal voice, well, of course things are going to change. But unless the "new challenges" consist of nothing more than grafting on a few entirely superficial cliches, the voice isn't going to be lost. It is going to change, and why is that a bad thing. Yeah, Mr. X "lost" some of his earlier qualities, but apparently those were qualities that Mr. X feel the need to hold onto anymore. And whose call is it as to waht Mr. X's voice should be - Mr. X's or some third-party arbiter? The answer to that one is obvious, I hope...

Tell you what - up until about the early/mid-1980s Max continued to be one of the most intense, energetic, vital, and distinctive musicians of the 20th century, period. After that, I got the feeling that all the discoveries had finally, finally been made for him and that it was then about just presentation. And I was ok with that because DAMN what a run!

But this whole thing about unfortunate attempts at "moderninity" or whatever you want to call it, I just ain't buying that in Max's case (or Land's, or Pepper's, or Sonny's). Whatever was lost (if anything was truly lost, and I'm in no ways convinced that it was...) what wasn't lost was the intergrity of an artist remaining true to themself in terms of responding to their environment. If that means "following" instead of "leading" to one extent or the other, oh well. So long as the end result is still distinctively whoever (and I defy anybody to find a Max Roach performance of the last 40 years that is not 100% immediately identifiable as Max Roach) then it's all good for me.

I understand that many perople find a certain period of an artist's developement, take it really close to heart, and hear anything beyond that as "not the same". Fair enough. But geez, just for once I'd like to hear somebody simply say, "I don't like Mr. X's later work simply because it doesn't give to me what I want to hear from Mr. X" instead of "I don't like Mr. X's later work because he lost blah blah blah and he most have done that because he wnated to stay modern and blah blah blah and great as he was up to the end, he never really got it back afet her blah blah blah". Ya know what I'm saying? Sometimes it's easy to spend so much time focusing on what's not there any more that you miss what is there now.

Y'all can give me some Max Roach any damn time you want to, from any damn time you want to. My reference would be pre-Soul Note period, but if that's all you got, hey. no problem.

Edited by JSngry

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Jim, I see your point regaring change being a challenge and a good one for any artist... but still, even though some change may go in the right direction for the artist, it may go also in a direction that makes his work less interesting, capturing, less special, less idiosyncratic, whatever... and hence not be so attractive to a particular segment of the public, any longer (and usually make him more attractive to another segment at the same time). Happens all of the time, no matter if with jazz musicians, painters, composers, film directors...

I would never say change is bad - we'd never have gotten Trane's mature works if he hadn't evolved from when he was with Dizzy and then with Miles and Monk.

But also I think we should be allowed to argue about the merits or lack thereof, of change. It's not all good for everybody, necessarily!

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"But this whole thing about unfortunate attempts at "moderninity" or whatever you want to call it, I just ain't buying that in Max's case (or Land's, or Pepper's, or Sonny's). Whatever was lost (if anything was truly lost, and I'm in no ways convinced that it was...) what wasn't lost was the intergrity of an artist remaining true to themself in terms of responding to their environment. If that means "following" instead of "leading" to one extent or the other, oh well. So long as the end result is still distinctively whoever (and I defy anybody to find a Max Roach performance of the last 40 years that is not 100% immediately identifiable as Max Roach) then it's all good for me.

I understand that many perople find a certain period of an artist's developement, take it really close to heart, and hear anything beyond that as "not the same". Fair enough. But geez, just for once I'd like to hear somebody simply say, "I don't like Mr. X's later work simply because it doesn't give to me what I want to hear from Mr. X" instead of "I don't like Mr. X's later work because he lost blah blah blah "

Jim, I disagree strongly - critically it's URGENT that we deal with these things as reality, with the truth of a musician's CURRENT expression, because otherwise we risk a very basic dishonesty; we're not evaluating the musician in terms of the music he is actually playing but in terms of his history, of our attachment to this former work; this is actually, to my way of thinking, very condescending. The truth is, to cite only one of those you mentioned, Art Pepper showed a complete misunderstanding of the materials he wanted to use - modality and sonic experimentation - and this misunderstanding really warped certain aspects of this playing. I heard him a few times in those later years, and when he just played what he was feeling he was incredible; when he was self-consciously trying to be "contemporary" he was lost and distracted. To suspend our judgement of this musical turn or to reduce it to a simple "i don't like it" does no one any good; this applies to any art form, from film to the fine arts. (BTW, I feel the same way about Frank Morgan, who tries for modality and inevitabley falls far short ot it). Good criticism goes far beyong "I like it" or "I don't like it;" it offers an explanation, an examination of the reasons. THAT is why it is important for us to be as specific as possible.

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Well, ok, but when I hear comments like so-and-so A lost their individuality, or so-and-so B misunderstood this or that, and from where I sit & listen, I can still hear so-and-so A as sounding like nobody else, and so-and-so B not "misunderstanding" anything but just taking it and doing what they wanted to do with it, then I gotta wonder how much "critical" acumen is being utilized in the first place.

I mean, how do you "misunderstand" modality? Is there only one thing that it's "supposed" to be? Why is it "misunderstanding" to explore it to whatever extent somebody feels personally necessary and do with it what they will? That's like saying that somebody "misunderstands" water because they rinse their dishes with it instead of going swimming in it.

Which is not to say that there's not room for distinction. I've heard Pepper, Tony, Sonny, Land, et. al. ad infinitum give performances that range from splendid to...uh...not splendid utilizing the various "tools" of apparent controversy. It's not like the mere existence of these tools in these people's playing automatically diminishes the results before they even get played, which is what some of these generalized comments certainly imply. Far from it.

In fact, they raise the bar for everybody. Can so-and-so do what they want to do? We won't know until we hear it, which is a far cry from the answer being, "I don't see why not, they've been doing it for the last 8 million years", if you get my drift. And along those lines, there's the challenge to us, the listener - can we hear what so-and-so is up to, or can we only hear what we think they are up to? Big difference there, big, huge difference, and I've seen too many for too long fall into the trap of finding it the musician's fault when their expectations are not met, of looking at it like "well, he used to do this so well, and now he's not doing that so much any more, and, you know, he sounds like he's trying to cop XYZ's shit and XYZ does it so much better, so why the fuck is he even bothering with that when he used to do this other thing so well" which more often than not is so not, so very FUCKING not, what the cat had/has in mind. The cat's just exploring around and trying things out and hearing things that appeal to him and why not check it out to see what's there for me? Why not, indeed! But then some dudes with pretensions of "critical evaluation" looks at it like he's having a freaking identity crisis or some shit and makes it into some unnecessary, self-imposed psychodrama (hell, when was Art Pepper ever not a freakin' psychodrama?) and shit, I strat wondering whatever happened to the "positives" of things like curiosity and shit. Is that one of those thigns that you lose afer you use it to reach a certain point? Is getting trapped by your "identity" something to actually embrace, even if you're not ready for it at any given point?

Too much math for R&B, dig? At some point you just gotta let mutherfukkers be. It's not their job to be who you think they should be, much less remain who they have been up until now.

And as for Max, hell, Max's bands & their records post-, say, 1970 are not w/o...inconsistencies. But jeebusfukkinkriest, Max himself just got stonger and stronger and stronger. And stronger. The duets w/Cecil? Good god, fuck all this navel-gazing about the abandonment of the horizontal vs the vertical and get up on THAT for krissakes. That shit is life in some of it's baddest ass form ever. Or The Loadstar - I skip the sides w/Cecil Bridgewater just because, but good lord man, how does that not make you feel like you're in the presence of a messenger sent straight from GOD? And on and on and on it went for longer than it could have. The duet album w/Clark Terry that came out a bit back literally brought tears to my eyes, because here was, finally, conclusive proof that it - the "it-ness" of MAX ROACH - had finally ran out of gas. And damn was it heartbreaking to hear. I've only played that CD once all the way through, and I can't see ever doing it again, not any time soon. But anything else, even those later Soul Note sides where it sounds like they're making a record just because they can, hey - I will listen, because Max moves me that much, no matter what. You wanna quibble over horizontal and vertical, go design a crosswrod puzzle. You wanna feel the power of life, go listen to Max Roach. ANY Max Roach.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy, zero, zilch, nada, for any notions that Max was somehow less a potent voice, less an individual voice, less a significant voice after 196X. Nothing personal (in any of this) but in my world, any notion to the contrary goes on page one of The Book Of Wrong.

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easy, from an improviser's persepctive, to "misunderstand" modality, though it would probably bore most people here from a technical perspective - what I am reffering to is the mis-comprehension of the concept of modal playing in jazz, which for most musicians is not technically strictly "modal" but a way of playing vertically - there's that word again - against chords or tonal centers or scales that ususally move, as accompaniment, with less typical density than the chord accompaniments of bebop. For most jazz players modality is not simply the isolation of scale tones but a combination of those scale tones with the chromatric scale and the intervals of chromatic harmony; not that this isn't done in bebeop, but the techniques and ends are much different. Bebop players tend to resolve to chord tones and use chromatics as ways of connecting consonant tones; modal players tend to worry less about such resolution. But the KEY, when looking at how Pepper and Morgan misunderstand modality, is to see that they don't understand that modal or even free playing has its own kind of connectivity, a logic of melody and movement - to them modallity is simply a cluster of notes, a way of sliding up and down the scale, of dropping flourishes of sudden notes that sound, momentarily, "outside" but which are just empty musical gestures.

and I know it's gonna piss you off as navel gazing, but I feel the same way about much of Max's newer approaches to drumming - and the idea of vertical versus horizontal, though intellecutally suspect to you, is KEY to what's gone wrong here. Sometimes you just gotta say that the Emperor isn't naked but that his clothes are hand-me-downs...

Edited by AllenLowe

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Uh.....yeah. Sure.

Next time you talk to Braxton, ask him if regretted Max's loss of horizonticality on Birth & Rebirth.

I mean, c'mon...

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Amazing thread. You have all given me much food for thought.

These are the kind of fireworks that sucked me into this board in the first place. Passionate, thoughtful WRESTLING with these esthetic issues.

It's clear that Max was one of THE jazz drummers. He was right there at the white-hot center of the music for at least a decade, if not two or more.

I was lucky enough to stumble across a solo Max gig in the late '80s, when I was visiting a college buddy who lived on Manhattan's upper West side. My friend and I were walking past his local Tower Records and he off-handedly mentioned that there were, on occasion, live performances at this record store. We looked at the poster in the window, only to realize that Max Roach would be appearing at this location, on this very day, in a mere 15 minutes!

Max was well into his Soul Note/Bridgewater period, and the men in his band were in attendence, but Max played the gig solo. His drum kit set up on the simple stage, he proceeded to perform a solo tour de force, culminating in a tribute to Jo Jones, who, as he explained, had upstaged his rivals in a JATP concert in the '40s by performing a lengthy solo entirely on the hi-hat. Tribute to Roach's mastery was the fact that the small children at the edge of the stage were as mesmerized by the display as any of the jaded jazz fans in attendence.

I was happy to be able to shake the great man's hand after the performance and thank him for all the great music he'd been a part of over the years.

And, YES, I say YES AGAIN, to Roach's amazing duet recording with Cecil Taylor, which got me over many a motivational hump in college and after.

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Thanks for sharing the memorie.

That story about Papa Jo, one that I heard may times, occurred at a tribute to Gene Krupa during a Newport Jazz Festival concert. I Max doing this on a set I taped in '82, but I never tired of the story or the performance.

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