Friday, August 17, 2007

The day the music died

Max Roach died yesterday.

He represented the last real bridge to the birth of bebop.

Most of the giants died long ago. Bird and Brownie in the 50s, Trane and Bud Powell in the 60s. Monk disappeared before I really knew who he was. Sonny Rollins is still around, but he was more settler than pioneer, at least in my book. I saw Miles and Diz play, but long past their prime.

Roach was incredibly important. Every jazz drummer you have ever heard is doing what Roach (and Kenny Clarke) did, and virtually no one before them had done. The same is largely true of drummers in most of popular music over the last 50 years. Those two in effect established the syntax and grammar of their instrument.

Yeah, yeah, it ain't politics. But my blog, my rules. I write about what moves me. My first published works were published in a jazz magazine. (The experience left a bad taste, and I gave up writing about it or anything else for more than a decade.) I love the stuff, but there is something pervasively bittersweet about it for me now. It transformed, during my lifetime, from a live art form (in the sense of continuing evolution) to one preserved in amber, like classical music. And so when we lose perhaps the last member of the circle of true creators of he last major shift in what is often called the true American art form, it moves me.

Update: Howie Klein has more, as does the Times. And I just realized my "degrees of Kevin Bacon" -style connection -- I performed once with Anthony Braxton (as part of a college ensemble, and definitely not because of my own chops). Roach performed with Braxton. There you go.

Update: #2: Here is Roach at the dawn of bebop, in concert with Bird and Diz in 1945. Genius all around.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

Does anything touch that Massey Hall concert? I gave that vinyl to my friend Travis because he has a record player and I don't. And I have yet to see a CD that matched my album. I've only been able to find the red hot be-bop a-side without the cooler, mellower b-side.

That was a big album for me because the first time I heard it was at the dawn of my Kerouac phase (which is still sort of on going) and it was great to hear the sort of music I'd only read about.

11:06 PM  

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