Maxwell Lemuel Roach, born January 10 1924; died August 16 2007
“All the drummers were there at the Village Vanguard when Max Roach returned to action and taught them, once again, that he was the master, playing with a poetic command of his instrument that has never been equaled, even as he so completely absorbed the free, timeless drumming style that the avant-gardist Rashied Ali, both moping and admiring, said, ‘Well, Max is playing free now. I guess I’ll just go home and get my little rubber practice pad and wait for him to get another ten years older'” – Stanley Crouch, ‘The Presence Is Always The Point’ in ‘Jazz – A History of America’s Music’ by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns.
“Among musicians who identified with black consciousness, Roach was most frequently involved in direct action. Together with Charles Mingus – with whom he had set up the shortlived Debut label in 1952 – he organised the Newport Rebels concert, featuring musicians allegedly ignored by the main Newport festival. Roach even interrupted a Miles Davis Carnegie Hall charity performance because he disapproved of the beneficiary.
“The Village Vanguard club’s owner once pleaded with him to just play music and stop lecturing the audience” – Ronald Atkins, The Guardian.
Predictably, Doug Ramsey at ‘Rifftides‘ has some interesting thoughts and first-hand reminiscences about Roach: scroll down to August 16th. Ramsey’s description of Roach’s encounter with the winner of a San Fransisco cable-car bell-ringers’ competition is a classic.