Drum Pioneer Max Roach Dies at 83

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[from Down Beat magazine, August 16, 2007]

Max Roach, whose pioneering bebop drumming was revered for its tenacity and musicality, died early Thursday morning in his sleep. He was 83.

Roach is considered one of the most important and influential jazz drummers of all time. His work with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker first thrust him into the jazz spotlight during the mid-’40s. At this time, Roach drew on the style of Kenny Clarke to advance new approaches to drumming, including the use of the bass drum as a comping instrument and a more melodic style of soloing.

Roach recorded with Miles Davis for his groundbreaking Birth Of The Cool sessions, and later he and trumpeter Clifford Brown led an influential hard-bop quintet. Beginning in the ’60s, Roach pursued a range of more avant-garde and eclectic projects, performing with such artists as Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton.

Roach garnered numerous awards throughout his robust career, including an induction into the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 1980 and a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1981. He also joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1972.

In recent years, Roach had become less active due to hydrocephalus-related complications. He was living in New York at the time of his death. DownBeat will report more details of Roach’s passing as they become available.

Roach is survived by five children: Darryl, Maxine, Ayo, Dara and Raoul. Fans can leave their thoughts at an online guestbook here.

Also see:
A Musical Pioneer Who Never Stopped Searching, NYT

The Drummer Who Beat a Path to the Height of Jazz Artistry, The Washington Post

Other Obits:

Mother Jones

The New York Sun

NYT

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