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Roach, Max(well Lemuel)

Roach, Max(well Lemuel)

Roach, Max(well Lemuel) , remarkable black American jazz drummer and composer; b. Elizabeth City, N.C., Jan. 10, 1924. He was taken to N.Y. as a child, and after playing in a church drum-and-bugle corps, he was a drummer in his high school band; also sat in on jam sessions in various jazz haunts around the city. He began his professional career as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet, becoming immersed in the bebop movement. After a stint with Benny Carter’s band (1944–45), he joined Charlie Parker’s quintet (1947) and became widely recognized as one of the most innovative drummers of his era. He also studied composition with John Lewis at the Manhattan School of Music. He then led his own groups (from 1949), perfecting his “hard-bop” style. With the trumpeter Clifford Brown, he was co- leader of an outstanding quintet (1953–56). In subsequent years he led various groups, including M’Boom Re, a percussion ensemble (from 1970). With his own quartet, he played throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan (1976–77). He became a prof. of music at the Univ. of Mass, in Amherst (1972), where he instituted a jazz studies program. As a composer, he became best known for his Freedom Now Suite (1960), an expression of his solidarity with the U.S. civil rights movement. He also wrote and recorded the avant-garde scores Force (1976; dedicated to Mao Tse-tung) and 1 in 22 in 1 (1978). He was awarded an honorary Mus.D. degree from the New England Cons. of Music in Boston in 1982.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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