This 1981 live show at Washington D.C.'s famous Blues Alley features drummer extraordinaire Max Roach and his Band as captured by filmmaker Gary Keys.
Growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Max Roach was playing drums at the age of ten, to accompanying his mother who sang in gospel groups.
His first gig came at sixteen with Duke Ellington's Orchestra when he was chosen to fill in for Sonny Greer.
Roach in conjunction with fellow drummer Kenny Clarke changed the role of the jazz percussionist from simple time keeper to expressive instrumentalist.
Max Roach began attending jams sessions on Broadway in Manhattan during the early '40s where he encountered Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk.
In 1952 he launched his own record label "Debut Records" partnered with Charles Mingus and in 1955 formed the first of his many groups, featuring Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Richie Powell and George Morrow. Brown and Powell died in a car accident the following year resulting in the dissolution of the band.
Max soon assembled a new band with George Coleman, Kenny Dorham, and Ray Bryant with whom he released the album "Jazz in ¾ time."
In reaction to an invitation to perform at the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Max composed "We Insist! - Freedom Now."
After the album's release Max Roach gave Down Beat magazine this statement:
“I will never again play anything that does not have social significance. We American jazz musicians of African descent have proved beyond all doubt that we’re master musicians of our instruments. Now what we have to do is employ our skill to tell the dramatic story of our people and what we’ve been through.”
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