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


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#1 king ubu

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:05 AM

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I've been digging a lot of Max Roach's music, lately. Put most of the Brown/Roach Quintet material from the great 10CD box onto my iPod (omitting some alternates and false starts). Then I just recently got around playing most of the Mosaic box, combined with the albums he did for other labels in between the Mercury albums, including "Max" (Argo), "Deeds Not Words" (Riverside), the Time album, and just this morning while commuting the great Prestige album of Sonny Rollins' heading the Roach +4 band with Wade Legge and Kenny Dorham (including the magnificient Bird-medley, which probably was the idea for the Mercury album "Roach Plays Charlie Parker", I assume?)

Anyway, it's most fascinating to see how Max evolves.
Also it's very interesting to read the liners in the Mosaic and compare the music, play it in chronological way, check out how Roach's solo conception changes and grows... he seems to have been one of jazz' sharpest minds back then - a very intriguing character, to me.
Looking forward now to continue the trip with more of the Turrentine Bros./Julian Priester Quintet (incl. the Tommy T. album for Time adding Horace Parlan on piano, and the live album on Enja predating the last of the Mercury albums recorded in Paris). Next then what I still think are his best albums (besides the Brown/Roach material), "Freedom Now Suite" and "Percussion Bitter Suite".
What a great body of work in so few years! Too bad only that Mercury had more of a project-based approach and didn't document the working quartets/quintets more thoroughly! They're clearly on fire on the 1958 Newport set!

Max Roach Mosaic thread
Max Roach & Tony Williams thread
Max Roach recommendations thread
Album: Max Roach Trio feat. Hasaan
Album: Percussion Bitter Suite
Max Roach health thread
Max Roach health thread (2)
Album: Roach/Brown Quintet: Live at the Beehive
Album: Roach/Brown Quintet - The Last Concert

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Crappy discography (courtesy of the usual suspects)

a couple of his best albums include:

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#2 JSngry

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:31 AM

A paragon of musical strength.

#3 brownie

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:37 AM

His contribution to 'Saxophone Colossus' is monumental!

Tons of respect to Max Roach!

#4 king ubu

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 04:43 AM

His contribution to 'Saxophone Colossus' is monumental!


Oh yes! That's the first album I ever heard with him on drums. The solo he pulls on "St. Thomas" is jaw-dropping (as is the whole album... Blue Seven!)
Beautiful sound on that album too (even on the 80s Fantasy version), it's so deep and blue - one of my very favourite albums to this day!

I was able to catch Max live, in a weird concert with Abdullah Ibrahim. First both of them played half a solo set, and after the break they made a lame attempt at a duo. The Roach solo portion was the only part that was convincing and partly very good, but the whole event was a big letdown, even though I love both guys when they're on their own (or working with more sympathetic partners).

"To The Max", the 2CD set, is a nice showcase of more recent Roach, including M'Boom, his 80s quartet, the double quartet and more. Covers all the variety of things Max did in his later career.
Nothing of it comes close, in my opinion, to the stuff he did in 55-63 or so, though... in fact probably most of his post Brownie material isn't coming close to their quintet in 55/56, except maybe for the Candid and Impulse albums mentioned in my first post.
But then, luckily, it's not just about "greatest" albums all the time... he did so many good and great ones besides those classics, too!

#5 jazzbo

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 05:54 AM

I find his work with Bird fascinating. It's fun to hear how he came from the sound and style right before him and developed such a support for Bird's flight.

His is a flame full of oxygen and intense bright light. I might prefer for daily use something like the blue spitting and swinging flame of Kenny Clarke. . . but Max is the best contrast around.

#6 king ubu

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 06:30 AM

I find his work with Bird fascinating. It's fun to hear how he came from the sound and style right before him and developed such a support for Bird's flight.

His is a flame full of oxygen and intense bright light. I might prefer for daily use something like the blue spitting and swinging flame of Kenny Clarke. . . but Max is the best contrast around.

Yes... that's interesting... I prefer Philly Joe and Elvin for daily listening pleasure, I think, but Max (and similar Roy Haynes) are so great if you can listen a bit closer, less of that easy swinging groove (I guess that's the point about "Max Roach doesn't swing" - it's repeated by some of his sidemen, Billy Wallace mostly, I think, in the montage of quotes in the Mosaic booklet) but a highly musical, intense and concentrated way of playing that holds a lot of fascination.

#7 AllenLowe

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 08:06 AM

glad this came up - Anthony Braxton asked me recently if I knew of any notated Max Roach solos for a class he will be teaching, but I was stumped - anybody here have a source?

#8 king ubu

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:25 AM

Finishing my listen to the two of Sonny's last Prestige dates with Kenny Dorham (first date), Wade Legge, George Morrow and Max Roach (plus Earl Coleman on two tunes of the second date). This was actually a short-lived edition of the Max Roach quintet with Legge at the piano, otherwise not documented. It's a fine unit, for sure! Rollins is on fire and Roach is great, too!
With respect to this post of mine in the Art Davis thread...

Check out Elvin's self-titled Riverside album - he's great there too.
I guess he just wasn't your ideal session call bassist, but jelled when he built up a good working relationship. Doing just a studio date didn't inspire him as much, it seems.


I don't have that Elvin album yet - it's on my huuuuuge OJC/Fantasy to get list...

Probably he was (is? has the news been confirmed in any way by now?) just too strong a musical personality. I mean his walking lines, his timing, all of it is too personal for him to just fit in on any kind of jam session or loosely arranged studio date. With Roach though, he's very inspired and inspiring, I find - much more so than George Morrow, who just happens to play the bass in the band, most of the time, Davis is there, you can feel him at any given moment and he's actively shaping the music, not just accompanying - that's how it feels to me, at least...


... is that there are statements about Morrow in the montage of quotes by musicians/sideman in the Roach Mosaic booklet, that state that he was the only one to really cope with the fast tempos at that time (before Davis joined, that is - no negative words about Boswell, but he's not exactly your greatest bass fiddle virtuoso either, though he did a fine job with what was one of Roach's most underrated bands, in my opinion). There are statements that mention others sitting in, including Oscar Pettiford, and simply being unable to keep the tempo... so Morrow was no slouch, I guess... rather he wasn't a great solo player (not at all... there's one bass feature on the Brown/Roach band, not such a great track, but quite alright), but it seems he's respected by his colleagues if just for his able walking at breakneck tempos.
That tempo thing is one of the slight letdowns of these Roach bands, I think - Billy Wallace makes that point (and he seems quite certain that his own circle of musicians in Chicago was far better than the Roach group he played with... I don't think that makes too much sense, speaking of being better musicians, on that level, but I wouldn't doubt Wallace's statements per se). Anyway, the band so often just playing as fast as they can brings a certain sameness to the music that not even guys like Booker Little and the great (underrated? I guess so even if it's a stupid tag and I already used it in this post...) George Coleman can help getting over that. It's possibly some kind of restlessness, that would again make it interesting... a nervousness, a sensitivity? I don't know, though... looking forward to get through the Turrentines band and then on with the "Freedom Now Suite" - the 5/4 opener with Hawkins rough and stunning tenor solo most definitely offers one of those fat swinging grooves that Wallace seemed to miss in the Roach band... maybe it's like Roach has lost that nervous edge, gone a step further around that time (Freedom Now and also Percussion Bitter Suite from 1961)?

#9 Eloe Omoe

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 03:01 AM

Once Eddie Harris told me that, when Harold Land left the Brown-Roach quintet, Clifford asked him to take Land's place (they were playing in Chicago at that time). But Roach did not want Harris, since he didn't like his tone. So they asked Sonny Rollins, who was living in Chicago in those days. The rest is history.

#10 marcello

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 03:20 AM

This is a real good later recording, but not on cd yet:

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Max Roach - Chattahoochee Red
(Columbia FC 37376)

Cecil Bridgewater (tp) Odean Pope (ts, fl, ob) Walter Bishop Jr. (p -5) Calvin Hill (b, vo) Max Roach (d, per)
NYC, early March, 1980
1. Medley: The Dream / It's Time
2. I Remember Clifford
3. Reach For It
4. Lonesome Lover
5. Wefe (We-Fay)
6. Six Bits Blues
7. 'Round About Midnight
8. Red River Road
9. Giant Steps
10. Chattahoochee

#11 Eloe Omoe

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 03:48 AM

This is a real good later recording, but not on cd yet:

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Max Roach - Chattahoochee Red
(Columbia FC 37376)


Unfortunately, there are many Roach recordings from those years that are still waiting for a CD transfer... The Denon and Baystate LPs (except the Roach-Brand duo), "Confirmation" on Fluid, the perennial favorite "The Loadstar" on Horo.

In a sense, we're lucky that Max signed with Soul Note, whose CDs have always been comparatively easy to find (here in Italy, I mean. I do not know how their distribution goes today in the States).

Can't remember how many times I have seen Max's quartet in the late Seventies-early Eighties (and a fantastic duo with Braxton at the Verona Jazz Festival, far better than the Hat release and the Black Saint studio session).

#12 Swinger

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 05:33 AM

Lately I've really been digging his duet with Anthony Braxton on Birth & Rebirth. I didn't consider all that special when I first listened to it a couple of years ago but when I played it yesterday I was really amazed!

#13 Tom Storer

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 10:15 AM

I saw Max a few times... once with his latter-day quartet w. Odean Pope, Tyrone Hill and Cecil Bridgewater (I bought a T-shirt from Roach at a little table they set up after the concert... Max Roach selling T-shirts to make a buck, now that's a disgrace); once in the duo with Dizzy Gillespie that they made a CD out of; and once in a solo concert. He started the solo concert with his rendition of a spiritual, I guess, with a refrain of "I'm singing with a sword in my hand," which he sang while drumming. It was electrifying. He had that theatrical thing down. Same with his recording of MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech where he accompanies the speech on drums. Goose bumps.

And oh, yeah, once with M'Boom! That was a great concert, too.

Edited by Tom Storer, 07 August 2007 - 10:16 AM.


#14 Eloe Omoe

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 10:54 AM

And oh, yeah, once with M'Boom! That was a great concert, too.


I saw M'Boom four or five times. Sometimes they were absolutely great (the first time, I think in 1979, was incredible), but in other circumstances they were downright embarrassing. The craziest one of all was a Verona concert with the regular M'Boom members, plus Ginger Baker and an unrecognizable Tony Williams. Admittedly, Roach had never heard Baker play before going onstage. One of the worst concerts in my life...

#15 B. Clugston

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 01:03 PM

The craziest one of all was a Verona concert with the regular M'Boom members, plus Ginger Baker and an unrecognizable Tony Williams. Admittedly, Roach had never heard Baker play before going onstage. One of the worst concerts in my life...



What happened? Did they play "Toad"?

#16 Eloe Omoe

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:08 PM

What happened? Did they play "Toad"?


It happened that after ten minutes everyone went his own way and the whole concert became a grotesque drum battle where an utterly bored Tony Williams tried hard to outplay Roach and especially Baker, while all the poor remaining M'Boom members were desperately looking around, in search of something to do.

#17 John L

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:34 PM

The worst concert of the time featured Tony Williams trying to outplay Max Roach?


Those were the days.

#18 Eloe Omoe

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:42 PM

The worst concert of the time featured Tony Williams trying to outplay Max Roach?


Those were the days.


I think I have a tape somewhere <_<

#19 Tom Storer

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 03:48 AM

Philly Joe Jones once said, "If you love jazz, you have to love the drums." I love the drums, but the thought of Ginger Baker, Tony Williams and Max Roach drowning each other out against a backdrop of aimless percussionists rattling and tapping does sound like a nightmare.

(The second part of that Philly Joe quote was "and if you love the drums, you have to love Buddy Rich.")

#20 John L

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 08:49 AM

(The second part of that Philly Joe quote was "and if you love the drums, you have to love Buddy Rich.")



No! No! I don't want to love Buddy Rich!!!!! :wacko:

#21 king ubu

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 08:55 AM

(The second part of that Philly Joe quote was "and if you love the drums, you have to love Buddy Rich.")



No! No! I don't want to love Buddy Rich!!!!! :wacko:


he he... love would be a bit of an exaggeration, indeed... but in the right context (Hell NO, not with Bird & Dizzy & Monk!!!) he can be quite... useful/fine/takeable (make your own choice) (such as the Lionel Hampton w/Peterson dates).

Anyway, back on topic: enjoying the shit out of those albums with the Turrentine brothers and Julian Priester. Stanley Turrentine is so good at this early stage of his career! Tommy may not be the greatest technician and doesn't have stealth chops and all, but he's got a way of playing that I think is all his own. I played the "Quiet as it's kept" album, plus the other one (with Abbey Lincoln guesting on two tunes) from the Mosaic, then the Tommy T. Time album, and now getting close to the end of the Enja release from the band's Kaiserslautern 1960 concert - more great playing there! Then I'll end my Roach Mosaic trip with the Paris date on the last disc... and continue with Freedom Now Suite, of course!

Oh, and let me put in a good word for Julian Priester! Definitely one of my favourite trombone players of any time and style - his sound is so beautiful (highlights being his features on "Quiet as it's kept", I'd say... but most of his solos on these albums are great)!

#22 king ubu

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:00 AM

oops - that would be Priester's featues on the album (the one with Abbey that is) "Moon Faced and Starry Eyed".

Anyone has an idea why all these Roach Mercury albums are so darn short and still most contain so many tracks? I mean it's nice to have all these long solos by everyone on each and every track, but with such great bands as Max led during those years, it would have been nice to hear them stretching out some, now and then... also of course it would have been nice to have some more albums by the working bands... the live album from Newport is great (though a bit too exhausting as it's a burning speedy set), if that's an indicator for how the working groups did sound.

#23 AllenLowe

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:34 AM

"Max Roach selling T-shirts to make a buck, now that's a disgrace"

don't worry about Max - he was one of the highest paid acts in jazz for the last twenty years or so of his career - I booked him for the New Haven Jazz Festival and it cost a small fortune - the reason he's not in the Burns movie is that he demanded payment before he would go on camera - no other subject got paid, so that was that -

Max is a complicated guy - known privately in the jazz world as a great humanitarian, with many private and helpful gestures toward other musicians; a brilliant guy, as we can see in interviews, yet prone to some silly historical and social judgements on the subject of race - yet an advocate of Tristano, of Dave Tough, Buddy Rich, Johnny Carisi, and others; and once said to me "I never cared what color my musicians were as long as they could play." Also made, as I recall, some anti-semitic statements in Notes and Tones; beat up Abby Lincoln; was known to have some real personal problems int he 52nd Street days (one pianist from those days said to me, "if you were walking down the street and saw Max, you crossed to the other side, because if he asked you for something like money you could not refuse.")

the most technically astonishing drummer in jazz, in my opinion - 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) -

Edited by AllenLowe, 08 August 2007 - 09:35 AM.


#24 king ubu

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:34 AM

Another observation about the Turrentines/Priester edition of the Roach quintet: Max seems to loosen up quite a bit by that time. He's still *very* sharp (he always is!) but on some of the bluesier tunes tending in a bit of a "soul jazz" direction (such as the 5/4 groover "As Long As You're Living" or some of the material on the Tommy T Time album), he really lays out a fat groovy bottom that swings almost in the kind of way that Billy Wallace seems to have missed in Roach's playing, I guess...

#25 JSngry

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:00 AM

I mentioned this a few years ago, but oh well -

I thnk the key to Max, from the beginning all the way through (and I have no problem with him, his duet efforts or his tenor players into the 90s, although the bassist/Cecil Bridgewater thing is a variable quantity) is that Max was always a marcher by nature, not a dancer.

Actually, I've since come to see marching as a form of organized dance, and as with all things organized, the use to which it's put can and does run the gamut form celebratory & uplifting to downright inhumane and oppressive. But Max always had that marching thing at his personal and musical core, I think, and that's why those with a more/entirely dance-centric perspective like to say that he "doesn't swing", whether they dig him or not.

#26 AllenLowe

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:23 AM

I like marches - and I think they can swing -

#27 JSngry

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:24 AM

Absolutely.

#28 king ubu

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:31 AM

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!)

#29 AllenLowe

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:34 AM

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, 08 August 2007 - 10:34 AM.


#30 sal

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:34 AM

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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