What did Max Roach do?

multijd

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The same could be said about Neil Peart...always the stone-faced soldier while playing...the playing spoke for itself, though...just like Max.
And a similarly influential drummer within and without his genre.
 

RIDDIM

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Im young. Im dumb. I only know Max Roach from videos on youtube. From what I’ve seen, nothing he has played has moved me. But he is regarded as one of the greats. What should I be focusing on? Is it possible to just not be a Max Roach fan? Is enjoying Max’s playing an acquired taste? In your own words, what were his contributions to drumming?
Sometimes he can come across as cold; I'm perhaps a bit more partial to Art Blakey.

That said, Mr. Roach was a game changer, was a great musician who played the instrument at a high level and changed how the instrument was played and thought of. He was one of the first persons to play solos that were based on the form of the tune, vs. just playing a bunch of amazing drum stuff. If you listen to him solo, you can sing the underneath what he played. It made a whole lot more musical sense than just playing something loud or fast. That was a bit of a paradigm shift.

You may want to check out this link and all the recordings shown/cited.
.

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I'm shocked this hasn't been mentioned, and I'll offer this as a specific answer to your question.

Max recorded the first jazz composition in 5/4 time entitled “As Long As You’re Living” (pre-dating Brubeck’s “Take Five.”)

And before all of the Morello-files lose their collective minds. The song "Take Five" was recorded on August 18, 1959. And Max's "As Long as You're Living" was recorded (a month before) on July 21 1959. I think Brubeck's was released first (I don't have exact release dates right now at hand,) and "Take Five" was a more popular "hit." BUT technically, Max's 5/4 “As Long As You’re Living”(written by Julian Priester and Tommy Turrentine) was recorded first.

This is how I briefly encapsulate Max to my inquisitive students.

Max Roach (b 1924) first recorded in 1943 with Coleman Hawkins, but by that time Max was already a regular player on 52nd Street. He was trained at the Manhattan School of Music. He watched Kenny Clarke and then proceeded to take Kenny’s bebop innovations, and intensified them.

While Max was the house drummer at Monroe’s (nightclub) he developed, combined, and built upon the melodicism of Big Sid Catlett, Kenny Clarke’s early bebop innovations, Cozy Cole’s commitment to learning about (and playing) music on the drums, and Chick Webb's soloing virtuosity.

Max learned and applied the rhythmic language of bebop learned from Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker (whose band he was in from several times) and wrapped them up in a legendary and influential drumming package.

His key recordings were with a group that he co-led with trumpeter Clifford Brown. With Brown he recorded some of the fastest tempos in jazz, and crystalized the melodic drumming patterns that he used while trading four's, eight's, and on solos played over the form of the songs.

Max Roach was a virtuoso, a brush master, bandleader, and a professor of the drums and music. He enjoyed a long career in music that featured hundreds of recordings as leader and a sideman. He died in 2007.


I always advise students to do this. Listen to a little bit of other music from the same years that any recommended "groundbreaking" music was recorded. That will give it contextual and historical reference and will help to reveal it's importance.

And (as already mentioned,) if a specific music doesn't appeal to you at first, and the music or the artist is being named as highly influential or important. Put it aside, and come back to it. You might even have to return to it several times. It might take months or years for you to "hear it," and that's fine. Or, you might not ever "hear it," which is fine too. Everybody can't like everything, I've even heard of people that don't like pizza or chocolate.

This thread might not help or convince you to like Max's music, but you might develop more appreciation for his contributions and talents. There is lots of music (and musicians) that I respect but I don't specifically like.

Some lesser known Max Roach recordings that I like are Max's "Deeds Not Words," "With the Legendary Hasaan," Slide Hampton's "Drum Suite," Thelonious Monk's "Brilliant Corners," and Johnny Griffin's "Introducing Johnny Griffin."

Great question, wonderful observations from all, enjoy the journey!
And welcome to DFO,
MSG
 

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Also, everything ive seen he has such a stone cold face and hes not smiling. To me, the funnest thing about watching anyone play their instrument is watching how much fun they are having. Maybe he was on a mission?
A lot has been said already - this thread is a gold mine of information! :)
I've never seen him in person but he does seem like a well-spoken and friendly person in interviews but he was serious about his music. In the 40s - decades after the abolishment of slavery - there was still segregation, discrimination and even lynching. Jazz (a word that lots of Bebop players disliked) was considered brothel music and some of the most successful musicians were white, playing danceable Swing/Hot Jazz/etc. Bebop however is very difficult and innovative music and it was seminal for the emancipation of African Americans. But there are also humorous parts and tunes. You haven't mentioned what kind of music you like, unless I missed that, so not sure what to recommend. Anyway, these are some fun/upbeat songs that might be more accessible than some of the more austere recordings:
 

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Question for anyone here? Does anyone know if Max was a K. Zildjian guy or did he play A's? Just curious.
In the 50s and 60s, Max was a pretty exclusive A Zildjian player. There are a handful of photos of him playing different kits which appear to have Ks, but I suspect these may have been rental or borrowed kits, or Max sitting in on someone else’s gigs. 95% of the time, Max was using a silver sparkle Gretsch kit with As, and then a white satin flame kit starting in the mid-60s, also with A Zildjians. He remained an A Zildjian endorser in the 70s, but eventually seemed to stop bringing his own cymbals and would use whatever the venue supplied.
 

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hardbat

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He also played a partially 5/4 up-tempo arrangement of "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" much earlier, with Clifford Brown.
 

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"Herbie Nichols Trio" session, Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, August 7, 1955.

3 ply Gretsch and K's (?..as long as he was, a Gretsch endorsee.



1955

Full Album: wow sweet. LOT OF DRUMS
 
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wflkurt

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Thank you guys for not being nasty to me. For $10 dollars i have access to so much music instantly, its seriously overwhelming at times. I think if i bought Max’s albums, i would HAVE to listen to justify my payment. Where as now i can twiddle my thumbs and change the artist if my attention wonders. Some of what you guys said about what he was doing went beyond drums, that really inspired me. I needed to hear that. That was what I was looking for. The stuff yall suggested already sounds good. A movie should be made about this guy. Instead, we have Whiplash
Ironically I like Whiplash. Of course people don't get bloody hands like that, or are able to punch a hole in a drum head like that. Still I think it's a pretty cool movie with some interesting drama. I also don't care for seeing all the tensing up when faster playing is shown. The director of this actually filmed this movie almost like you would film a horror movie which I thought was cool. It also brought Buddy Rich and jazz back into the public eye which I was happy about.
 

wflkurt

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In the 50s and 60s, Max was a pretty exclusive A Zildjian player. There are a handful of photos of him playing different kits which appear to have Ks, but I suspect these may have been rental or borrowed kits, or Max sitting in on someone else’s gigs. 95% of the time, Max was using a silver sparkle Gretsch kit with As, and then a white satin flame kit starting in the mid-60s, also with A Zildjians. He remained an A Zildjian endorser in the 70s, but eventually seemed to stop bringing his own cymbals and would use whatever the venue supplied.

I was thinking he was an A player. He cymbals sound really nice but when it comes to jazz, I think I prefer the K sound. His A's sound clean and shimmery, which is really not a bad thing. It's quite nice in fact but I am finding that I really like Art Blakey probably the best. I love the almost trashy sound of a K. I certainly don't mean that as a bad thing but K's certainly have a character all their own (Depending on the cymbal of course). I like how Art would crash the ride and the wash would disperse almost immediately. They almost have a dirty sound to them and I love that sound with jazz.
 

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I'll contend as long as it was he was a Gretsch endorsee he used "their" cymbals (Ks)...when he started mingling with Ludwigs and dis associated with Gretsch he went with or used Avedis .
The cut off date- Gretsch endorsee to Free Agent- was probably late late 50s or early 60s..or someone could investigate-
But in the beginning with Gretsch he used "their" cymbals is a safe wager..but it changed fast..
Remember the one story he taking Tony to Gretsch...So his connection with Gretsch availed him to their cymbals..
Remember too the K Z of 53-56-59 weren't always exotic beasts depending how played- conversely A's of that time-- were depending on how played- could be near interchangeable

Can See the "Zildjian Made In Turkey"
stickers sometimes under..




He was a company Man for awhile..when many of the recordings were made
It's true also he advertised with Avedis.
ad here: some rivalry going on no doubt "over" Max



But prior (or during) many recordings and gigs
 
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Drumstickdude

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In the 50s and 60s, Max was a pretty exclusive A Zildjian player. There are a handful of photos of him playing different kits which appear to have Ks, but I suspect these may have been rental or borrowed kits, or Max sitting in on someone else’s gigs. 95% of the time, Max was using a silver sparkle Gretsch kit with As, and then a white satin flame kit starting in the mid-60s, also with A Zildjians. He remained an A Zildjian endorser in the 70s, but eventually seemed to stop bringing his own cymbals and would use whatever the venue supplied.
I read an article where either Max Roach or Art Blakey ( can't remember which one now!) said he wasn't bothered what sort of drums they should supply him with when using backline or the venues drums - which was a lot of the time, because he said he felt he should be able to make music on any sort of equipment.
 

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I think since ive grown up with crystal clear highly produced drum tracks, those early jazz recordings are hard to listen to.
This is a real phenomenon. I've brought it up before, and older guys don't get it. Justin Varnes (a jazz drummer who has some awesome YouTube videos, JazzDrummersResource is his channel - check it out, he has worked out a TON of classic licks from the masters and posted videos of them) had the same problem...just couldn't hear the drums. So he worked backwards from more modern recordings that he could hear. Once he understood the idiom better, THEN he could hear what was going on. But yeah, if you don't know what you're supposed to be hearing, it's very hard for modern ears to pick up on those old recordings. A teacher or someone who understands it would obviously help in that regard as well.
 

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Lots of great replies here to the OP's honest questions. This thread should be a great resource for an understanding of Max's significance and his key stature in the evolution of jazz and bebop drumming.

I have some other observations. NONE of this is meant to be taken personally, especially by the OP. It is simply a comment on some interesting factors I see at work here.

What is fascinating to me about this discussion is that, in a very general way, it is displaying the difference between the world as influenced by the internet and social media and the world that existed before these things came into being.

As an educational resource, I LOVE YouTube and have since day 1. Most people I know, especially musicians, feel the same way. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to learn visually both from our heroes of yesteryear and the pioneers of today. There is content on YouTube that I only dreamed of being able to see when I was starting out as a young drummer and musician in the early '80s. I'm still amazed by what has been put out there and what is available.

The problem--if you want to call it that--with YouTube IS that it is primarily a visual medium and it is so easily accessible. It is, especially for many young people, I suspect the ONLY educational resource that many turn to in learning their art form.

What's often missing from YouTube is the key aspect of intellectual and historical context.

Without that, it might naturally lead a younger viewer to, for example, pull up a video of Max Roach, compare it to a video of Nate Smith or Mark Giuliana, and then conclude, "What's so great about Max Roach when these new guys can play rings around him technically??"

That younger person, with only that example, cannot understand that there would not be a Nate Smith or a Mark Giuliana without the innovations of Max Roach and his surrounding generations. That younger player can't appreciate that what you see in Max's playing, as comparatively simple and primitive as it might seem, was largely unprecedented, highly unusual and hugely innovative for its time. Essentially, Max Roach WAS the Smith/Giuliana of his time. That's the point.

The OP mentioned the aspect of smiling while playing. All throughout the history of drumming in the 20th century, there were those who smiled and who didn't while playing. I'm thinking of guys like Buddy, Krupa, Papa Jo, etc. They were showmen as much as they were drumming geniuses. They were prominently in the spotlight of their times and they came from a world that valued the idea of theater to a much larger extent. They knew how, when and why to ham it up.

But, outside of that, there were plenty of prominent players who didn't put a lot of stock in whether or not they smiled while playing. They were PLAYING. Not acting. Regardless of who smiled and who didn't, I really don't think most music fans of the pre-internet world were all that concerned by whether or not players were smiling. The music did the talking...even after MTV and videos came along and the visual medium WAS becoming more significant.

Fast forward to current times, and here we have a gazillion musicians on YouTube all vying for their slice of the pie of worldwide exposure. In many quarters, there DOES seem to have developed this near-requirement that musicians smile on camera, mug for the camera, and look like they are having a supremely fun and joyous a time. Wherever that's a sincere feeling, that's totally cool by me. It's great. And I'm not here to judge anyone's emotional reaction to what they're playing. I'll just say that there are times when I question whether or not it IS a sincere expression or whether it's done out of some perceived need to comply with some unspoken visual/YouTube protocol.

Personally, I don't need a musician to be smiling when playing. What I need is to hear that something sincere and real and expressive is coming through in the playing. But maybe that's because, again, I'm from a pre-hyper-visual generation.

When I started playing, in 1983, although Max was still alive at that time, it was quite a bit past his heyday and his initial prominence. The world was much different. And yet, I still knew, and most young drummers knew, that Max Roach was important. As I got into drumming and became more excited about music, I read...and I read and read and read. I spent hours combing through library shelves for books on drumming and music history. We still had more of a kind of oral tradition at that time, with older-generation teachers and players explaining to us, in person, why those players of previous generations were so important. (I suppose what's happening here on this thread is a kind of replacement for that.) The magazines of those days carried more stories and interviews regarding the older generations as well as the younger. But the main idea, I would argue, is that young players at that time had much more of an exposure primarily to intellectual and historical knowledge rather than visual. When combined with the discipline of close listening, it promoted a different kind of learning--a deeper, fuller picture.

The irony is that, with the internet, we DO have more intellectual knowledge instantly available to us than ever before. However, I sense that young players are maybe foregoing the idea of acquiring knowledge through reading and studying in lieu of the ease of YouTube and social media. In that sense, I guess, I find it unfortunate that the OP had to come here for an understanding of why Max Roach is important. And I think there's a danger in judging Max Roach or anyone of past generations only through the lens of the 21st century and its social-media paradigms.

If any of this is the case with the OP, then--in all sincerity--I would encourage more reading and more studying about the importance of the earlier generations of players. As great as the response here has been, I think it is EXTREMELY important to be able to self-educate and not just rely on other people to tell you what you should be looking for. There is always a lot of danger in not understanding the full context behind things.
 
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poco rit.

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CharlesM Man you reached into my soul and said just what I needed to hear. I agree 1000% with everything said and i will heed all of your wise words. Everyone has had extremely valuable insights. I feel like im taking a Max Roach appreciation class. Im literally taking notes!

My generation NEEDS visual stimulation, more specifically by way of a screen and videos. I can remember making powerpoints in 3rd grade. It sucks that I know the jingle of Liberty Mutual or Charmin toilet paper more than I do any Max Roachs music. I do consider myself an avid music listener. Its just instead of researching old music, I always want the newest newest thing. New drum sounds, new effects. I love finding new modern music and critically analyzing the drum sounds and how they were achieved. So going back and listening to the old drum sounds is like a chore. Idk why its so hard for me to focus on the playing and get past the sound. Before this thread, when I would try to research the old jazz greats, it would be exhausting to sit through a whole album (idk if any you guys know what I mean..) For instance, listening to Birdland or Nefertiti took every bit of my focus I had and it was very tempting to change it. But I listened to them because I know i need to if im serious about the drums. Its like, if I was a person who liked that music, then I know I would like it. Ya know? As others have said, I too can appreciate the musician for their skill and accomplishments, but may not jive with the music. I want to be hip like yall and say that I truly love jazz. But right now its like homework for me. Again, to be clear, i do indeed appreciate jazz. And I know that learning the history is beneficial and arguably NEEDED for the serious drummer.
 

poco rit.

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Also, ironically, i love the sound of vintage drums and thin jazz cymbals. I have a Rogers and use K Cons. The heart wants what it wants. Im a weirdo
 

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Lots of great replies here to the OP's honest questions. This thread should be a great resource for an understanding of Max's significance and his key stature in the evolution of jazz and bebop drumming.

I have some other observations. NONE of this is meant to be taken personally, especially by the OP. It is simply a comment on some interesting factors I see at work here.

What is fascinating to me about this discussion is that, in a very general way, it is displaying the difference between the world as influenced by the internet and social media and the world that existed before these things came into being.

As an educational resource, I LOVE YouTube and have since day 1. Most people I know, especially musicians, feel the same way. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to learn visually both from our heroes of yesteryear and the pioneers of today. There is content on YouTube that I only dreamed of being able to see when I was starting out as a young drummer and musician in the early '80s. I'm still amazed by what has been put out there and what is available.

The problem--if you want to call it that--with YouTube IS that it is primarily a visual medium and it is so easily accessible. It is, especially for many young people, I suspect the ONLY educational resource that many turn to in learning their art form.

What's often missing from YouTube is the key aspect of intellectual and historical context.

Without that, it might naturally lead a younger viewer to, for example, pull up a video of Max Roach, compare it to a video of Nate Smith or Mark Giuliana, and then conclude, "What's so great about Max Roach when these new guys can play rings around him technically??"

That younger person, with only that example, cannot understand that there would not be a Nate Smith or a Mark Giuliana without the innovations of Max Roach and his surrounding generations. That younger player can't appreciate that what you see in Max's playing, as comparatively simple and primitive as it might seem, was largely unprecedented, highly unusual and hugely innovative for its time. Essentially, Max Roach WAS the Smith/Giuliana of his time. That's the point.

The OP mentioned the aspect of smiling while playing. All throughout the history of drumming in the 20th century, there were those who smiled and who didn't while playing. I'm thinking of guys like Buddy, Krupa, Papa Jo, etc. They were showmen as much as they were drumming geniuses. They were prominently in the spotlight of their times and they came from a world that valued the idea of theater to a much larger extent. They knew how, when and why to ham it up.

But, outside of that, there were plenty of prominent players who didn't put a lot of stock in whether or not they smiled while playing. They were PLAYING. Not acting. Regardless of who smiled and who didn't, I really don't think most music fans of the pre-internet world were all that concerned by whether or not players were smiling. The music did the talking...even after MTV and videos came along and the visual medium WAS becoming more significant.

Fast forward to current times, and here we have a gazillion musicians on YouTube all vying for their slice of the pie of worldwide exposure. In many quarters, there DOES seem to have developed this near-requirement that musicians smile on camera, mug for the camera, and look like they are having a supremely fun and joyous a time. Wherever that's a sincere feeling, that's totally cool by me. It's great. And I'm not here to judge anyone's emotional reaction to what they're playing. I'll just say that there are times when I question whether or not it IS a sincere expression or whether it's done out of some perceived need to comply with some unspoken visual/YouTube protocol.

Personally, I don't need a musician to be smiling when playing. What I need is to hear that something sincere and real and expressive is coming through in the playing. But maybe that's because, again, I'm from a pre-hyper-visual generation.

When I started playing, in 1983, although Max was still alive at that time, it was quite a bit past his heyday and his initial prominence. The world was much different. And yet, I still knew, and most young drummers knew, that Max Roach was important. As I got into drumming and became more excited about music, I read...and I read and read and read. I spent hours combing through library shelves for books on drumming and music history. We still had more of a kind of oral tradition at that time, with older-generation teachers and players explaining to us, in person, why those players of previous generations were so important. (I suppose what's happening here on this thread is a kind of replacement for that.) The magazines of those days carried more stories and interviews regarding the older generations as well as the younger. But the main idea, I would argue, is that young players at that time had much more of an exposure primarily to intellectual and historical knowledge rather than visual. When combined with the discipline of close listening, it promoted a different kind of learning--a deeper, fuller picture.

The irony is that, with the internet, we DO have more intellectual knowledge instantly available to us than ever before. However, I sense that young players are maybe foregoing the idea of acquiring knowledge through reading and studying in lieu of the ease of YouTube and social media. In that sense, I guess, I find it unfortunate that the OP had to come here for an understanding of why Max Roach is important. And I think there's a danger in judging Max Roach or anyone of past generations only through the lens of the 21st century and its social-media paradigms.

If any of this is the case with the OP, then--in all sincerity--I would encourage more reading and more studying about the importance of the earlier generations of players. As great as the response here has been, I think it is EXTREMELY important to be able to self-educate and not just rely on other people to tell you what you should be looking for. There is always a lot of danger in not understanding the full context behind things.
- Copying what someone did is fine, but then we have to look for the why. What drove them to do what they did? Once we understand that, we can make our own informed choices.
 

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I spent a lot of time working my way back through jazz history, eventually spending hundreds of hours listening to the recordings of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong which represent pretty much the dawn of recorded jazz. You think Nefertiti recording quality sounds old, haha check out King Oliver recordings. Ironically, this led me to seek out the best preservations of old recordings (and film and video), and in the process I learned about methods and technologies and that became a side business of audio/video restoration for me. You never know where historical journey will take you.

Also, just because a recording isn't new, doesn't mean that it isn't new to you.
 


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