Friday, April 5, 2013

Some thoughts on Max Roach, jazz drummer and composer

I was introduced to Max Roach's music over 20 years ago while living in central New Jersey.  In the mid to late 80's I started listening to WKCR, Columbia's University's radio station.  I listened to one show in particular, entitled Bird Flight, hosted by Phil Schaap.  This is a show that is dedicated to Charlie Parker's musical legacy.  Often times Phil would have Max Roach on the show, to talk about Bird and many other things.  Max had a lot to say about Bird, bebop, and anything else that was happening in jazz in the 40's and 50's.  Max was a member of Parker's band, and was on many of Parker's recordings   Roach had a long and rich career, and was always an active and vibrant member of the jazz community.  He continued to be active into the 90's and early 2000's.  But he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's which slowed him down.  Eventually he died in 2007.

 It's been almost 6 years since the death of Max Roach, the great drummer, composer, band leader, educator, activist, etc., etc.  As usual WKCR, did a memorial broadcast.  I discovered that they weren't the only ones who paid tribute.  On August 27, 2007, Democracy Now said good by to Roach.  Phil Schaap, jazz historian and 40 year veteran at WKCR, and Amiri Baraka, author, music historian and activist, appeared on Democracy Now with host Amy Goodman.  They covered large parts of the funeral, held at the Riverside church in New York City.  Some of Roach's closest friends, such as Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, and Bill Cosby, spoke at the funeral.  Below is the link to the Democracy Now segment, where you can watch the original broadcast and read the script.

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