Max Roach, Jazz Great Dies at 83
Max Roach, a key figure in the growth of bebop, died today in his sleep. He was 83. Why does it matter? Well, many can explain his contribution to jazz, better than I. For me, jazz was one of the bridges to my father. From there it has grown into a point of joy. From Preservation Hall style jazz to bebop to hard bop to cool to fusion and more the art is, as so many have said an Amercian one. As for the law, one can look to the work of K.J. Greene for race issues and music, but I think a simpler way to consider jazz applies. As schools start classes again, trials pick up speed, and life plows ahead, consider jazz as a way to pause and appreciate the varied rhythms of life. It does not have to be jazz, but attorneys who find a way to take in life and step back from the warp speed at which law seems to move are likely to be better at their jobs and quite possibly enjoy themselves too.
Still for those needing more law-related reasons to listen to Mr. Roach, the article notes “Roach also was a civil rights activist who brought politics into his art. In 1960 he created “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” a seven-part suite featuring vocalist Abbey Lincoln that addressed slavery and racism in America. Some of his work with Ms. Lincoln is on YouTube (a search for Max Roach YouTube should do the trick to find several clips).
Here is a clip of Mr. Roach and his quartet in full glory, playing all out.
For those who want more, there are two clips below the fold. One is called Mr. Hi-Hat. Notice Mr. Roach’s nod to Jonathan David Samuel Jones for his mastery of the hi-hat. Mr. Roach was known for “shifting the time-keeping function to the cymbal, allowing the drums to play a more expressive and important role and, in the process, contributing to the shift of jazz from popular dance music to an art form that fans appreciated sitting in clubs” yet gives Mr. Jones his due. It reminds me of the night I saw Branford Marsalis and Sonny Rollins play a double header concert in Berkeley. Brandford started, was cool in a nice suit, and played some excellent jazz. He ended and said roughly that he was able to do two of his favorite things that night, play for an audience and get a lesson from a great. He then told people who might be foolish enough to leave to stick around. Fifteen minutes later Sonny Rollins came out. He wore RayBans, a short sleeve bowling style shirt, and blew the roof off the house.
The other clip is a drum battle between Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. (Oh yeah, check out Art Blakey’s Mosaic and by that I mean just buy it.)