As PBS will be airing “Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes” as part of its American Masters’ “Thought Leaders” series of documentaries on Friday evening October 6, the Wednesday evening October 4, Night Beat (8-10 pm MDT) with your host Doug Crane will feature a number of Max’s recordings as a leader and sideman.
During the 1940s Max, along with Kenny Clarke, changed the approach of how jazz drummers confronted the challenges of playing bebop, the new up-tempo style of jazz set in motion by pioneers such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. They largely abandoned the use of the bass drum in favor of the ride cymbal to propel the music
Beginning in 1954, Max co-led a band with the extraordinarily gifted Clifford Brown, a trumpet player who sadly was killed in a car crash in 1956.
Max continued working with his own band and others that included musicians such as Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, George Russell, Kenny Dorham, Booker Little and many more.
As the 1950s progressed, Max’s music added political commentary in recordings such as “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite” (1960) with collaborator Oscar Brown, Jr. which was just the beginning of his role as a spokesman addressing racial and political justice issues.
In 1970 he formed the percussion ensemble M’Boom. Its repertoire contained a mix of classic jazz standards as well as new compositions that toured and recorded over the next 20 years.
From 1972 until 1994 he was a Professor of Music and African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Always on the search for the next “new thing”, Max was part of “Rhythm in the Kitchen: Be-bop Meets Hip Hop”, a concert held in November 1983 at The Kitchen in New York City. Besides a crew of dancers known as the New York City Breakers, the performers also included rap vocalist Fab 5 Freddy and disk jockeys D.J. Spy and Dr. Nick Nice.
We’ll also note the birthday of bassist Eddie Gomez perhaps best known for his long tenure with the Bill Evans Trio from 1966 to 1977.
Tune in for music from Max Roach, Eddie Gomez, and more on The Night Beat with your host Doug Crane at 8 pm MDT on Wednesday, October 4.
NOTE: Rocky Mountain PBS airs “Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes” at 8 pm MDT Friday, October 6, locally on Channel 6 followed by “Chasing Trane: the John Coltrane Documentary” at 9:30 pm MDT. Both programs re-air beginning at midnight on Saturday, October 7.
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