Roach, Max

Roach, Max

Roach, Max (Maxwell Lemuel Roach), 1924–2007, African-American jazz drummer, b. Newland, N.C. Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was playing jazz in Harlem clubs by 1943. Roach had an important role in the genesis of bop (see jazz), providing jagged, layered rhythms to groups led by Dizzy Gillespie (1944) and Charlie Parker (1945–53), and elevating drums to the status of solo instruments. An innovative virtuoso who mingled power with subtlety, Roach became (1954) co-leader with trumpeter Clifford Brown of a hard-bop jazz quintet that also included Sonny Rollins. After Brown's death (1956), Roach led a variety of jazz small groups, and in the early 1960s he was an early public jazz champion of racial equality, particularly in his We Insist! Freedom Now Suite (1960). He founded M'Boom, an all-percussion group, in the 1970s and the Max Roach Double Quartet, in which strings played an important part, in the 80s, and later led the So What Brass Quintet. Roach also composed music for the theater and for dances by Alvin Ailey.
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Roach, (Maxwell) Max

(1924–  ) jazz musician; born in New Land, N.C. The premier modern jazz drummer, he was raised in Brooklyn, attended the Manhattan School of Music, and recorded with Coleman Hawkins in 1943. Over the next four years, he was a sideman with Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Hawkins. He joined Charlie Parker's trailblazing quintet from 1947–49, then free-lanced as a session player and with Jazz at the Philharmonic and the Lighthouse All-Stars until 1954. Between 1954–56, he and Clifford Brown coled one of the most highly regarded groups in modern jazz. After Brown's death, Roach maintained a succession of groups while pursuing a wide range of activities as a composer and educator, particularly as a professor of music at the University of Massachusetts (1972).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.