Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra pay tribute to one of the greats when they celebrate the centennial of drummer Max Roach. Roach, a pioneering legend and innovative master musician and bandleader, spanned a diverse range of styles and influenced generations to follow with his artistry and his commitment to activism.
Wynton Marsalis, Music Director, Trumpet
Obed Calvaire, Music Director, Drums
Ryan Kisor, Trumpet
Kenny Rampton, Trumpet
Marcus Printup, Trumpet
Vincent Gardner, Trombone
Chris Crenshaw, Trombone, The Golkin Family Chair
Elliot Mason, Trombone
Sherman Irby, Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet
Alexa Tarantino, Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet
Chris Lewis, Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Abdias Armenteros, Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet
Paul Nedzela, Baritone and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Dan Nimmer, Piano, The Zou Family Chair
Carlos Henriquez, Bass, The Mandel Family Chair in honor of Kathleen B. Mandel
Note by Stephanie Jones, courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center
Max Roach (1924-2007) transformed the sound of the drums, re-orchestrating the instrument itself. He defied limits, subverted roles, and innovated methods for improvisation and unbound freedom of expression. Profoundly — singularly — his artistry revolutionized how the drums communicate and influenced the direction of live and recorded music.
As only they can, members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis transmit the resonance of Roach’s impact to intergenerational audiences. Their creativity as orchestrators, improvisers, and consummate storytellers honors his centennial with new arrangements of original repertoire from his seminal albums. “He’s one of the great freedom fighters in the history of jazz,” says Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, “an unbelievable drum virtuoso who invented the modern style of drum.”
As a band leader and collaborator, Roach approached his instrument with musicality, imagination, and staggering virtuosity. He became a statement maker with something new, something profound to say until his death in 2007. In developing his own vocabulary – articulating time on the ride cymbal, alongside fellow innovator Kenny Clarke – Roach would center agility, develop vocabulary, and create new forums for improvisation and dialogue. The ways he would explore space and texture – and later tonality, composition, and orchestration – elevated his artistry and helped originate small group sounds for Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis, as well as era-defining projects that featured Charles Mingus, Clifford Brown, Abbey Lincoln, and Duke Ellington.
“You could take four bars from Max and come up with a lifetime of vocabulary on the instrument – playing bebop,” says Co-Music Director and JLCO Drummer Obed Calvaire. “That’s how much he’s influenced our music. You can take those four bars and put the pieces together in all kinds of ways – anything you do, it’ll always work out. That’s how musical he was. Don’t get me wrong – Max had tremendous technique. He could play as fast as anyone. But when he sat on the drums it was always music. Everything came as a dialog to him. He was just a genius and there will never be another Max Roach.”
As an artist, Roach invited radical love and activism into every aspect of his work, blazing a trail for future generations to demand change and fight for civil rights. “He was ceaselessly creative,” says Marsalis, “one of the deepest believers in democratic freedoms – and he fought for those freedoms.” Through their artistic commitment as individuals and as a collective force, the JLCO pays homage to Roach’s legacy that, after so many years, continues to affirm every artist’s calling to empower creative expression and effect meaningful change.
“Only a group of musicians who have toured together for so long—with several original members still on the bandstand— could have attained this kind of synchronicity in intricate passagework. ”Chicago Tribune