Drummers / Percussionists
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BIOGRAPHY

Max Roach

Max Roach, born Maxwell Lemuel Roach on January 10, 1924 in Pasquotank County, NC, was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer. As a pioneer of BeBop, Roach is viewed as one of the most important drummers in history. 

In the 1940s Max Roach, along with Kenny Clarke, helped devise a new concept of musical time-keeping on the drums — playing the beat-by-beat quarter-note pulse on ride cymbal rather than on the bass drum. This flexible, flowing rhythmic pattern which later evolved into what is now known as the standard swing pattern, that allowed soloists to play more freely. The new approach also allowed more space for the drummer to insert dramatic accents on the snare drum and bass drum.

Roach brought a new subtlety of expression to the drums by outlining the tune's melodic rhythm, shifting the dynamic emphasis of a single phrase by moving around the drumkit, creating a sense of tonal color and, of course, rhythmic surprise. Although quite common today, Roach and Clarke's introduction in the 1940s would grow into a revolutionary new jazz music style, bebop, which can be heard performed in bands led by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis.

Besides leading his own groups, Max Roach worked and/or recorded with numerous jazz musicians, including Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Don Byas, Jimmy Cleveland, Al Cohn, Miles Davis, John Dennis, Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Holiday, J.J. Johnson, Thad Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Booker Little, Howard McGhee, Gil Melle, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, A.K. Salim, Hazel Scott, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Turrentine, George Wallington, Dinah Washington, Randy Weston, and Joe Wilder. Roach played on many of Charlie Parker's most important records, including the Savoy November 1945 session, a turning point in recorded jazz. His fast tempo brush work with Bud Powell's trio is legendary.

From 1950 to 1953, Roach worked towards a Bachelor of Music degree, studying classical percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. The school later awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 1990.

Max Roach passed away in Manhattan, New York on August 16, 2007; he was 83.


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