What did Max Roach do?

equipmentdork

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I may have missed it elsewhere in this thread, but Max influenced other influential drummers like John Bonham. He quotes "The Drum Also Waltzes" at the beginning of his solo from the Royal Albert Hall concert on the DVD released in the early 2000s.



Dan
 

studrum

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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.
This is an astoundingly well-thought out and reasoned discussion on how well the transfer of knowledge went pre-social media, and how poorly it can go with social media. I should think that those involved in online education (and I know a few folks in that racket) could benefit from heeding this.
 

studrum

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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
Here's where you'll get sucked in! Beware, next thing you know you'll have 5 drumsets and be buying the complete Sonny Rollins on Prestige!
 

Dave HCV

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Really too bad that Daniel Glass isn’t a DFO participant. Not too many others have his command of music history from behind the drum set.
 

5 Style

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Roach was great in a variety of ways, but the one thing that I think that maybe he did most brilliantly was his soloing. If you can forget about a drum solo as being a display of chops (though Roach had that too!) and think about it as an improvisation off of a structure, then you'll see that no one really did it any better than Max Roach. I hear his solo spots in various tunes and I can clearly hear parts that suggest the melody, where the changes come and go, the bridge etc. Hearing somone like Max Roach solo honestly makes pretty much every rock drum solo that I've heard sound pretty pale in comparison. Sure, rock solos can have plenty of flash but they all seem to go in a single direction: building toward some kind of giant climax, and they don't generally have so much in the way of melody or form...
 

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Speaking of soloing, Rich vs Roach is essential. Everyone gets why Buddy was great. Not everyone gets why Max was too.

 

5 Style

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Duuude this is so cool. Dang this place is full of knowledge. This was my first post on DFO. The information I have received from this one thread has been more informative than anything Ive seen in the past year or even more! I dont have any drum buddies or elders.. hence why i am here for answers. Which is why i have missed out on all this great information. I come from an orchestra background starting on violin. So i havent had any drum mentors or peers. The guy i took lessons from for a year, was in a ska band.. bless him, but i never liked ska.. lol
Yeah, I don't like the ska music that's probably best known these days in the USA. I'm talking about the kind of punked up ska that was made popular by a bunch of bands in the 90s. No accouting for taste, so I'm not necissarily saying that this music is awful, just not my taste. It comes off as being a kind of very stiff, regimented brand of punk that strikes me as a bit like a polka beat on speed. The original stuff made in Jamaica though is a totally different thing. It's got a much slower, sexier beat. Some of the Britsh stuff too, from the 80s (second wave, they call it) I like as well... Check out the English Beat and The Specials.

I can relate to you're not quite loving jazz music as I was in the same boat some decades ago. I first got into the electric, rock influenced variant, jazz fusion which in a way seemed much closer to the kind of rock stuff that I was already lsiteing too. Not really so subtle and with familiar backbeats. I remember thinking though that acoustic jazz with the traditional swinging type beat was a bit inscrutable to me at first. The rhythm, first and foremost seemed kind of random and lacked anything like the regular reference points of the backbeat I was used to in rock music, or even jazz fusion. After some exposure to it though, I began to intuitively understand how the rhythm in this music functions and that made the music far more enticing to me. The melodies too, which so often seemed made from such odd intervals became earworms, equally as catchy as any pop music is to me.... even the improvisation started to have a kind of logic to me.

Several decades later, though I still love rock music (and lots of different kinds of popular music), I've gotten REALLY addicted to jazz. It probably helps that I've learned how to play it, which has given me an even deeper appreciation for the music. There's just something about jazz drumming and how it seems to go places that pop drumming rarely does. The beat isn't so tied to one thing, it's far more elastic and it's as if you're able to use all of the colors in the crayon box rather than just the strong primary colors. Most jazz, though it might seem like it to the layman, is anything but random. It's very much based on structures, and the improvisation, no matter how wild it gets stuff has to fit within those particular structures, which makes it a great challenge to play and exciting to listen to as it's great to hear how other folks rise to that challenge while still being true to their personalities (rather than just seeming to use it as a technical exercise).

Anyway, I think that it's important to remember that not everything that's potentially worth one's attention is necessarily something that is going to be easy to appreciate. Jazz is one of those things, particularly for a drummer, that I'd say is very much worth learning to appreciate. Even if you only get to the point where you can appreciate the stuff and never end up actually playing it, just being aware of what makes it tick can inform your rock/pop playing... just as it has with so many of the greats in that music (who were seriously inspired by jazz).
 

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Great thread with great posts.
Hopefully we can lay to rest the utter crap that drummer have to be smiling while playing. People dance to or enjoy music because it moves them, rather than being entertained by a facial expression. The latter is shallow nonsense.
 

5 Style

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Great thread with great posts.
Hopefully we can lay to rest the utter crap that drummer have to be smiling while playing. People dance to or enjoy music because it moves them, rather than being entertained by a facial expression. The latter is shallow nonsense.
Yeah, I don't really care so much if the band that I'm hearing "puts on a show" as long as the music sounds good. Too often I've seen shows where though most of the audience seems to be enjoying it and the band are really getting into it, the actual sound of the music seems secondary to the whole thing. If I really want some kind of "show" like that I'll go see a play! People seems to forget that music is about SOUND and if that isn't happening, I don't see much of a point to it.
 

Swissward Flamtacles

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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.
Don't worry - once you like a genre, you like it. To me, that means finding tunes that you like first. If you get a tune stuck in your head and you can hear the theme while all the solos happen, you're halfway down the rabbit hole of enjoying Jazz. Here are a bunch of popular standards: https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/50-jazz-standards-you-need-to-know/ - pick a few randomly until you find a song, that you really like and then listen to different versions (original, modern adaptation and also with a singer because lyrics can help a lot to learn the melody in my opinion).
Just one example: "Well You Needn't" played by Avishai Cohen - a modern version with quotes from a Sean Paul song that is a lot of fun.
And here is the original by Thelonious Monk:
Of course, that's not Max Roach playing here but that's secondary to developing a taste for the music. There are thousands of Jazz recordings and you can't listen to everything at once, so look for things you enjoy first. :)
 

multijd

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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.
This is so right on!
 

multijd

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Speaking of soloing, Rich vs Roach is essential. Everyone gets why Buddy was great. Not everyone gets why Max was too.

I was a big Buddy Rich fan. Then I heard this record. It turned me around. Max’s use of space and musical development were a revelation that have guided me from then on.
 

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Here is an obit from “Traps” magazine at the time of his passing.

4485F55D-95E6-42F7-A2BE-EC0E414E332E.jpeg
 

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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
I know his gear choices are a bit off topic...but the photo of him playing a 13/16/22 WMP kit with Ks? Almost certainly not his kit, and most likely a back line kit at the Randall’s Island Jazz Festival. He never used those sizes in the 50s or 60s.
 
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I was 25, Max was 57. I’m 63 now.

He’s an example of being creative throughout an entire life - he never stopped growing. His small group work with Clifford Brown is text book modern jazz. His Freedom Now Suite came in the midst of the 60s Civil Rights movement. Free jazz duets with saxophonist Anthony Braxton. His double quartet - jazz quartet and string quartet. M’Boom, his percussion ensemble. He was a professor at Amherst College. And there’s probably stuff I don’t know to mention.

He never stopped learning and trying to be better tomorrow than he was today. If I could embrace a fraction of that I will have lived a good life.

I’ve also had the chance to meet and interview Jack DeJohnette, Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Alphonse Mouzon and a host of other badasses.

And there are some folks here that have some pretty deep experience.
What?! I thought he was a professor at UMASS Amherst. Anyway, that's where I saw him play "For Big Sid" at Jazz In July some years ago. Archie Shepp taught there too--I learned a lot in his class.
 

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