Max Roach – Bebop Musician

Max Roach.

Maxwell or Max Roach was born on January 10, 1924 in NewLand North Carolina. Seeking better opportunities his parents moved Roach and his family to NewYork where he will soon discover his love for his instrument. As a child Roach played other instruments such as the bugle and piano but was captivated by the surging rhythms of drummers like Papa Jo Jones, Sid Cattlet and Chick Webb and decided to take up drums. This lead him join and start playing in gospel bands. 

As his love for the drums grew he started playing in local clubs,

Roach became the house drummer at Monroe’s Uptown House in 1942, and he participated in the jam sessions there and at various 52nd Street clubs with Parker and Gillespie that led to the development of bebop. 

In the early 1940s he began performing with a group of upcoming innovative musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in nightclubs at Monroe’s Uptown House and Minton’s Playhouse.

His style supported experimentation, improvisation and interaction between members of an ensemble. Drummer Kenny Washington said that “Roach shifted the emphasis from keeping a simple, steady beat to facilitating a conversation between the drums and cymbals and the other musicians. Roach set the standard for the modern jazz drummer with his melodic approach to rhythm.”

a style of jazz that moved the fixed pulse from the bass drum to the cymbal and created a polyrhythmic, percussive texture by emphasizing the flexibility of the trap-drum set. 

Roach elevated the percussionist to the equal of melodic improvisers.

Later, Roach turned his attention to the Civil Rights Movement. He believed that using his platform and expression through music would help elevate the Movement and which he composed his Freedom Now Suite, which chronicled the “African-American struggle from slavery to the present”.

Roach gave new meaning and respect for the drums. His quest for innovation was unrelenting and he will always be recognized for his contributions to the aritsitc community.

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