Friday, August 17, 2007

Ya know how some people get all bat-shit, bullshit when a famous person dies?

I was meaning to give examples of that kinda bullshit, but I decided to be kinder than that, and move on to the real topic here.

One of the great innovators and masters of Be-Bob Jazz, Max Roach, has died.

Now I can not claim to have ever met him. I don't think I ever saw him in concert. But he played with Charlie Parker's Quartet, back in the day. Oh, and my my uncle used to jam with Charlie Parker, back in the day. And if you know anything about musicians, generally, and jazz players, specifically, you should know about the continuum. That means (in brief) every musician is on some line of descent, like with a family tree, but it is based on who were your teachers and who you played with, and who they did, and so on. Therefore, I am sorta on the Be-Bob continuum (even if I never was a pro, I tie in to the Be-Boppers through my uncle.)

Anyway, back to Max Roach. Genius Drummer. And I started playing drums when I was in the fourth grade. Even if I was exposed to Be-Bop at an early age, it was not until high school days that Max Roach influenced me, for real. Suffice it to say, my jazz solo style was hugely influenced by the Max Roach style. And this is me talking, not what some body has posted on the net in some obit. Yet, if I had to sum up what was the hallmark of Roach's genius was that his innovative solo style stood for a very important 'truth' in music, generally, and jazz drumming, particularly. That truth can be expressed as follows:

"The space between the notes are as important as the notes."

This may sound like nothing important to someone who is not a musician (or a rhythm player) but jazz drum soloing had followed a nice enough but sorta not exactly thoughtful style throughout the big band era, and that was one where there was always something being banged on with a drum stick or some pedal being pressed. That can get to be relentless and even tiresome, after a while.

Now Roach? Here is how I describe a max Roach solo.

Badda ba crash/splash-bang . . . .

He gets up from behind the drum set, goes across the street, bowls a couple frames, comes back and

Ticky-ticky, baddda da badda-bum . . .

He hops a flight to Havana (if we are talking about the hey day of Be-Bop, the early 1950's) has a couple Cuba Libre's at the Trop., gets back to Birdland, and behind the kit and we get

Tat, ta tat, badda.

Kick-kick, chick. radda ratta . . .

You get the message I hope?

I will screw my mind to that place where I can talk 'academic' and say it the other way.

Mr. Roach's spatially and temporally staccato and delayed cadences highlighted the aural difference between the played notes and the naturally unplayed rests; his deliberately seemingly yet deceptively haphazard syncopation served to illuminate the symbiotic relationship between the beats and the rests.

Oh, and it sounded sooo cool!

Anyway, before I get too long, let me find a decent tribute page.

Oh, and Max. Say hi to Uncle Billy for me.


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