Born On This Day in 1924: Legendary Jazz Drummer Max Roach

Max Roach Birthday

Pioneering percussionist, composer, band leader, and drummer Max Roach was born Maxwell Lemuel “Max” Roach in North Carolina to parents Alphonse and Cressie, and worked with dozens of musical greats, including Miles Davis, Charles MingusThelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie

The Roach family moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in the late 1920s. Roach’s mother was a gospel singer, and Roach would start his long musical career playing the bugle before moving on to playing drums for gospel groups by age 10. Roach’s first big break came when he was just 18, when he was asked to fill in for Duke Ellington’s drummer, Sonny Greer, for a performance at the famed Paramount Theater.

Sideman gigs came in droves for Roach, and he scoured the jazz clubs in Manhattan along with his former school mate saxophonist Cecil Payne. It was in the 1940s, however, that Roach and fellow drummer Kenny Clarke would change jazz drumming forever. The pair were a part of early jazz players who drummed in a new musical time pattern that would eventually help shape the style of jazz known as bebop. The loose drumming style allowed for more space for musicians to use improvisational techniques in their music.  To learn more about Roach’s life and music, click here, and watch an example of his exemplary drumming here:

article by D.L. Chandler via

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