Thursday, August 16, 2007

Max Roach 1924-2007

I will not pretend to be able to speak cogently on the relative qualities of jazz drummers, since that world is its own short circuit, but Max Roach always seemed to bring a haze of cool to everything I ever heard him on. One of my favorite jazz records ever is Charles Mingus' Live at the Bohemia, and while it would be a stretch to consider Roach the star of the session, what with Mingus making the earth rotate with each groan and bump from his bass, and George Barrow channeling Chet Baker the best he can on a tenor sax, it's the first record that I heard cymbals on, like really heard the point of cymbals.

My caveman concept of drumming is that you hit something and it goes thud and things follow that thud, but Roach's cymbals swarm in an out through the cracks, like light passing through trees on a drive at dusk. He creates a light airy mortar that connects the comparatively heavy bricks of ego that comprise the bulk of Live at the Bohemia.

I think it can be relatively safely stated that jazz is a music on the search for a connection - it is a signal sent out among the players and back in feedback loops, building on recombinant actions and reactions, becoming layers of itself, but for that signal to be able to travel, it needs a conduit, and the drumming, particularly the static hiss of cymbals, serves as the axons and dendrons, and I'm thankful Max Roach was kind enough to demonstrate that to a knucklehead like myself.


  1. My god you have such a gift for describing things. I can't imagine what an interesting world your brain is.

  2. I'm glad you wrote this. xo, M