Max Roach

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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