Monday, July 14, 2014

Digging Max

When people ask me who my favourite drummer is (I have many!) the name Max Roach is usually the first to come out of my mouth.

I came across a few items lately that reminded me as to why this man has had such a powerful impact on my own music:

- Here is Amiri Baraka's powerful eulogy from Max Roach's funeral in 2007:


And here's the wonderful piece of prose entitled "Digging Max" by Amiri Baraka:

Max is the highest 
The outest, the 
Largest, the greatest, 
The fastest, the hippest, 
The all the way past which 
There cannot be

When we say MAX, that’s what 
We mean, hip always 
Clean. That’s our word 
For Artist, Djali, Nzuri Ngoma, 
Senor Congero, Leader, Mwalimu, 
Scientist of Sound, Sonic Designer, 
Trappist Definer, Composer, Revolutionary 
Democrat, Bird’s Black Injun Engine, Brownie’s Other Half, Abbey’s Djeli-ya-Graph

Who bakes the Western industrial singing machine 
Into temperatures of syncopated beyondness 
Out Sharp Mean

Papa Jo’s Successor 
Philly Joe’s Confessor 
AT’s mentor, Roy Haynes’ Inventor 
Steve McCall’s Trainer

Ask Buhainia, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin or Klook 
Or even Sunny Murray, when he ain’t in a hurry. 
Milford is down and Roy Brooks 
Is one of his cooks. Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, 
Andrew Cyrille can tell you or youngish Pheeroan, 
Beaver and Blackwell and my man, Dennis Charles. 
They’ll run it down, ask them the next time they in town.

Ask any or all of the rhythm’n. Shadow cd tell you, so cd 
Shelly Manne, Chico Hamilton. Rashied knows, Billy Hart. Eddie Crawford 
From Newark has split, but he and Eddie Gladden could speak on it. 
Mtume, if he will. Big Black can speak. Let Tito Puente run it down, 
He and Max been tight since they were babies in this town.

Frankie Dunlop cd tell you and he speak a long time. 
Pretty Purdy is hip. Max hit with Duke at Eighteen. 
He played with Benny Carter when he first made the scene. 
Dig the heavy learning that went with that. Newk knows, 
And McCoy. CT would agree. Hey, ask me or Archie or Michael Carvin 
Percy Heath, Jackie Mc are all hip to the Max Attack.

Barry Harris can tell you. You in touch with Monk or Bird? 
Ask Bud if you see him, You know he know, even after the cops 
Beat him Un Poco Loco. I mean you can ask Pharoah or David 
Or Dizzy, when he come out of hiding, it’s a trick Diz just outta sight. 
I heard Con Alma and Diz and Max in Paris, just the other night.

But ask anybody conscious, who Max Roach be. Miles certainly knew 
And Coltrane too. All the cats who know the science of Drum, know where our 
Last dispensation come from. That’s why we call him, MAX, the ultimate, 
The Furthest Star. The eternal internal, the visible invisible, the message 
From afar.

All Hail, MAX, from On to Dignataria to Serious and even beyond! 
He is the mighty SCARAB, immortal as our music, world without end. 
Great artist Universal Teacher, and for any Digger 
One of our deepest friends! Hey, MAX! MAX! MAX!

-Amiri Baraka (Written in 1999, read at Max Roach’s funeral, Aug. 24, 2007) 

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