[JPL] The best drummer/Max Roach

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Fri Apr 9 07:45:15 EDT 2010

What a nice surprise to see these Max-related missives.  I had the honor 
of knowing Max and consider him a mentor.  I am continually grateful for 
the perspective he offered me on race matters and the music business.  
Max was an exemplary American-- disciplined, determined, pragmatic, 
experimental, entrepreneurial.  LaPalm likens Max to Oscar and Michael.  
I think of him as a refined pugilist with sticks and brushes.  I 
produced Max's first-ever solo concert on May 28, 1979, and caught his 
groundbreaking duo concert with Cecil Taylor at Columbia later that 
year.  I was surprised on a number of occasions (in the pre-caller I.D. 
era) to answer the phone and hear Max's voice.

I wrote about Max's funeral at Riverside Church for our local Daily 
Hampshire Gazette and recounted the profound impact he had on my life.  
For brevity's sake, I will simply say that just hearing that Max was on 
the faculty of the University of Massachusetts changed my life.  I was a 
lost pilgrim at that time, but suddenly Max became a beacon when a 
cousin who was attending UMass let slip his name.  At the funeral, 
someone noted that when Max approached, you suddenly stood a little more 
tall and felt a little more ready.

I've been listening to Phil Schaap's Birdflight on WKCR ever since 
audio-streaming made that possible.  I still do, but since August 16, 
2007, I've missed hearing Phil shout "Good Morning, Max!" to his dear 
friend.  Speaking of WKCR, I've got a rough copy of a tape of Max's 
appearance there in which he fiercely denounced Miles Davis's depictions 
of Charlie Parker in his autobiography.  Gary Giddins had written a 
feature on Max before then in which he praised him as a "monitor" of the 
music's best instincts; how that resonated as Max spoke up on behalf of 

You can listen to the solo concert that I produced on Max at this link.  
Scroll down to WCUW Jazz Festivals and click on 1979 concerts.  
Elsewhere in the archive you'll find concerts by Andrew Cyrille, Sunny 
Murray, Joseph Jarman-Don Moye, Bill Dixon, Marion Brown, Hamiet 
Bluiett, and many others.

or find a more direct link off this url:


dick lapalm wrote:
> Max Roach and I were close friends since the days in the late 50's when
> I worked on several of his albums, including the classic, Deeds Not 
> Words.
> He was the consummate musician, and, in my opinion, the best and most
> complete of all drummers.  Like Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan,
> Max could do it all.  ALL!
> Max was the father of modern drumming.  His playing caused a sense of
> wonderment amongst those who came before and after him.  They viewed
> his work as the standard by which to learn and measure themselves.  Many
> considered his recordings as installments in a correspondence course.
> He could make the drum kit sound as tuneful as a piano!  In fact, he
> could do so using only the hi-hat!  He remains, unquestionably, "the
> drummer's drummer".
> Dick LaPalm
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