Max Roach

The news came last week that Max Roach passed away in Manhattan. I was lucky enough to see Max Roach play live a few times while I was a graduate student at Dartmouth College. My most enduring memory of the man would have to be Max and the drum kit alone on the stage while he completely captivated the audience for five or ten or fifteen long minutes. It was a shame to see him stand up and exit.

Roach was never one to stick to one style or one particular way of working. A few years after graduate school I happened to catch him playing the Regatta Bar in Cambridge where he brought with him a trio that consisted of the drum kit, a piano and one of those strange sounding Chinese violins.

One of my great regrets in life is that I didn’t find out about Max Roach until well after I had left Amherst and gone on to school. I was in graduate school when I discovered the quintessential record that he made with Clifford Brown: Clifford Brown and Max Roach At Basin Street, and it was at this time that I first saw him live at Dartmouth College. Later I found out that for most of my life up until that time, Max Roach had been a professor at UMass in Amherst. He had been right under my nose for my whole life and I was ignorant enough to not realize it until I had already left town. Typical.

Anyway, if you have not found Max Roach yet, I suggest you start with the record above and then go and get everything else he ever did. It will be the most interesting time you ever have listening to a drum kit, I guarantee it.