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Different Drummer Stops the Beat: Max Roach, 1924-2007

Max RoachRIP posts are a drag, for obvious reasons, and this one is a major bummer–Max Roach has left us. Another giant gone. The New York Times has an obituary up, and WKCR has begun a memorial broadcast that will continue through August 22. (Also check out the tribute at Who Walk in Brooklyn.) Word is that he passed away in his sleep early this morning, that his family was with him, and that–given health problems and illness in recent years–his passing is perhaps a better thing for the man who gave heart and soul to the music for so many years.

As my colleague Joe Bourne said when I told him the news, “Where do you start with Max Roach?” Max Roach the revolutionary bebop drummer? Max Roach the leader of the Clifford Brown-Sonny Rollins quintet? Max Roach the social activist? Max Roach of the double quartet? Max Roach the jazz educator? Max Roach the early progenitor of DIY (starting the Debut label with Charles Mingus)? Max Roach the duet partner of Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, and Archie Shepp?

Hard to start and hard to end. Goodbye and thanks for the unique, unadulterated talent and humanity that was you. You stamped the times you lived in and beyond… jazz won’t ever forget Max Roach.

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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