One of the greatest protagonists of making the drum set a truly "musical" instrument has left us. A firm believer of the concept that the drummer was not just a supportive rhythm player but a true musician, many people don't know that Max received a bachelor of music degree in composition from the Manhattan School of Music way back in 1955.
I performed on several occasions with maestro Roach because I was fortunate to be Mario
Bauza's drummer. He exuded jazz's two main aesthetic values, truth and freedom. He always, I mean always, when the question came up, publicly stated that Latino musicians have never been given the credit they so rightfully deserved to have in terms of jazz's history. For his musicianship and his acknowledgement of the contributions of our community, he was truly loved.
The drum speaks and Max was a great coversationalist. How could he not be, he was a modern day griot. :) Just as he was eloquent on the instrument, he was eloquent and out spoken in his life off of the band stand. Just as he was a musical revolutionary, he was also a socio-political revolutionary. He was quick to point out injustices, not only in the industry, but also in our political system, long before it became the norm to do so by popular artists of the time.
He once told me that historically any great evolution/revolution in any style of music comes from the instruments that play rhythm. It didn't matter if it was orchestral music, grunge, funk, Latin American music, etc. So true, as Max and Kenny Clarke proved, in the case of jazz, with their innovative approach to co-ordinated independence, phrasing, interpretion, and especially in Max's case, his greatest contribution, melodicism applied to the kit.
There is great sadness in NYC. Visionary poet Sekou Sundiata, Mario Rivera, the ultimate sideman, saxophonist, flutist, multi-intrumentalist, bassist Art Davis, and now Max, the person who truly made the multiple percussion set (as he called it) a source of melodic invention, have all left us.
Thank heavens, besides the memories we have their recordings and writings which immortalize their contributions, so that we can continue to be, and the next generation may be, inspired.
My sincere condolensces to the family.
Ibae y ache' (respect and positive energy),