Sometimes he can come across as cold; I'm perhaps a bit more partial to Art Blakey.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?
A lot has been said already - this thread is a gold mine of information!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?
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.Question for anyone here? Does anyone know if Max was a K. Zildjian guy or did he play A's? Just curious.
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.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
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.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.
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.I think since ive grown up with crystal clear highly produced drum tracks, those early jazz recordings are hard to listen to.
- 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.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.