World renowned legendary Jazz drummer/visionary Max Roach died yesterday in an undisclosed hospital in New York, (August 16) after a long illness a spokesman for Blue Note Records revealed.
Roach, who championed Hip-Hop music in the 1980’s and 90’s, influenced rappers like Gangstarr, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest and others.
Roach, born Maxwell Lemuel Roach in New Land, North Carolina, started playing drums at the age of 10 and studied formally at the Manhattan School of Music.
At the age of 18, Roach was playing in Harlem spots like Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House, where he held down the duties of house drummer.
He backed and played with a number of emerging artists, including future giants like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and others.
Roach debuted on wax in 1943 with Coleman Hawkins’ orchestra, recording for the legendary Apollo record label.
He also backed stars like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool), pioneering R&B/Jazz artist Louis Jordan and others.
Roach co-founded Debut Records with bass virtuoso Charles Mingus in 1952, which released several influential albums by roach.
He was also a member of the famed Brown/Roach Quintet, which featured Jazz prodigy Clifford Brown, who hailed from Wilmington, Delaware.
In the 1960’s, Roach was immersed in the civil-rights scene and recorded the album We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.
In the 1970’s, Roach kept active by forming the percussion band M’Boom.
In the 1980’s Roach saw the value of Hip-Hop music and turntablism.
Roach even recorded tracks for an unnamed album with Hip-Hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy.
“Hip-Hop is complete theater,” Roach told the Los Angeles Times in 1991. “These kids don’t have rhetoric courses, so they’ve created their own script in rhyme–it’s verbal improvisation. They don’t have formal musical training, so they make music from the tones and rhythms of human speech–they’ll sample Malcolm X saying, ‘Too black, too strong.’ They’ve even created their own instrument–the turntable. They have nothing but the inclination to be involved. And like Louis Armstrong, out of nothing they create something.”
Roach defended Hip-Hop music from the critics of the day, labeling the music a “boundless palette.”
“For centuries, Mozart and Charlie Parker and Ellington and Bach and Beethoven stood for the proposition of harmony, melody and rhythm equally balanced. Now here come these rap kids, dealing with a world of sound that makes the palette much broader. There’s no melody, no harmony, just this very repetitive rhythmic thing. Rap completely obliterates Western concepts of music. It’s revolutionary.”
Max Roach was 83-years-old.