Max In Action


The instrumental and oral voice of Max Roach was often heard among the most politically outspoken voices of the turbulent 1960s. But, this bebop and modern jazz drum legend foreshadowed such activism at a quintet date he recorded in 1958 which promised a future of Deeds, Not Words (Original Jazz Classics, 2009), recently re-released on vinyl.

Deeds teams Max Roach with rhythm ace bassist Art Davis plus soloists George Coleman (tenor sax), Booker Little (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). The absence of any “chord instrument” such as piano or guitar, and tuba alongside bass in the lower register, creates a unique sound that takes some getting used to.

Drums and cymbals tumble and slide like silk in and out of the groove to maintain melodic and rhythmic variety in Roach’s solo “Conversation” with himself. Oscar Pettiford steps in for Davis on the bass/drum duet “There Will Be Another You,” two musical giants going toe to toe for nearly six minutes on their respective instruments. Little sounds like he’s playing part trumpet, part flamethrower, to lead “Jodi’s Cha-Cha” and “Larry-Larue.”

The Debut Records Story (Debut, 1996) recaps the best recordings of the label that Roach co-founded with Charles Mingus, including highlights from The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall (OJC Remasters, 2012), also known as “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever,” where they held down the rhythm for Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell; and Bud Powell Trio's Jazz At Massey Hall Volume 2, without Bird and Diz.