Tag: Max Roach’s papers

Library of Congress Acquires Papers of Legendary Jazz Drummer Max Roach

From Max Roach’s archive: a contract for a 1956 club date; an undated photo of Roach, at right, with Art Blakey, center; a 1964 letter from Maya Angelou. Lexey Swall for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Max Roach, the great drummer and bandleader and paradigm-shifter of jazz, though he disliked that word, never finished an autobiography.  That’s a shame. He died in 2007 at 83, and his career spans the beginning of bebop, the intersection of jazz with the civil rights movement, free improvisation, and jazz’s current state of cross-disciplinary experiments and multimedia performances. Inasmuch as jazz is about change and resistance, he embodied those qualities: He fought anything that would contain or reduce him as an artist and a human being. He would have been well served by his own narrative, set in one voice.

Max RoachBut Roach was archivally minded, and, when he died, he left 400 linear feet of his life and actions to be read: scores and lead sheets, photographs, contracts, itineraries, correspondence, reel tapes and cassettes and drafts of an unfinished autobiography, written with the help of Amiri Baraka. On Monday, the Library of Congress will announce that it has acquired the archive from Mr. Roach’s family and that it will be made available to researchers.

“What I think he would hope people would see,” said the violist Maxine Roach, his daughter from his first marriage, “is that there was a lot about his life that was difficult, you know? The struggles. A lot about economics, and jazz as a word that we didn’t define ourselves.” (Roach felt that it was a pejorative term; he preferred to call it African-American music.)  “But aside from all of that,” she continued, “I hope that people see his excellence and his mastery of his skill, which helped him rise in this country that’s been so hard on black men especially, and how he went through it and what price he paid.”

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