What can you say about one of, if not the greatest drummer in jazz history? When I was first getting into this music at age 10-11, all I listened to was Charlie Parker records, so Max Roach was a given for me. I just thought that's how people played drums.
Max's brilliance didn't hit me until several years later, when I got what is still my favorite Clifford Brown record, the Live at Basin Street outing of the Brown/Roach quintet, still with Sonny Rollins. Listening again now, the album is uneven, and Richie Powell is a little stiff, but the propulsion that Roach provides, and Clifford rides, still blows me away to this day. Just listen to the solo on the full version of "What is This Thing..." Wow.
When I was 16, I was also lucky enough to see a Max Roach solo set at Newport, featuring "Mr. Hi Hat", his tribute to Jo Jones. (This followed a duo set of Jack DeJohnette and Bobby McFerrin. I was a lucky kid) I was stupified. Here's one version, courtesy of Hank Shteamer at TONY:
Many others can say more, and speak better of Max's brilliance (great NYT obit here, and Darcy has an expanding blog rundown.) And like many folks, I knew he was sick. I'm just overwhelmingly grateful for Max's amazing music, searching soul and restless spirit. Heaven's rhythm section just got that much better.