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Live At Blues Alley

Max Roach


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Jan. 10, 1924 - Aug. 16, 2007


Drummer Maxwell Lamuel "Max" Roach was born January 10, 1924 in Newland, North Carolina.

Roach grew up in Brooklyn, New York with his mother, who was a gospel singer. By age 10, Roach was playing drums in gospel bands.

When he was 18, Roach was called to fill in for Sonny Greer in Duke Ellington's Orchestra.

Throughout the 1940's he played regularly at jazz clubs, and worked closely with Kenny Clarke to develop jazz drumming as it is known today.

Roach is also known for founding Debut Records with Charles Minus, and for his seminal recordings with Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.

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.

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 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 were 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 weve been through.

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