Sunday, September 9, 2007

Max Roach

In October of 1994 I went on a cruise. It so happened that a friend of mine was working on a sweepstakes promotion where the prize was a free Jazz cruise to the Caribbean. It turned out that a number of people who won the sweepstakes, couldn't or didn't want to accept the prize. So there were a few cabins left over. My friend, her husband, another friend, and were able to have those cabins just having to pay taxes, and some other fee. I couldn't pass up a free cruise, even though Jazz wasn't something I was very into at the time.

What a lucky person I was to go on that cruise!!!! I was able to see so many Jazz greats who are no longer with us - and a few who still are. I was also reunited on that cruise with a man, Earl May (playing the bass), who was essentially my step-father from the time I was 5 until I was 10 or 11 - and his current wife, who was also a family friend.

But, what probably left the biggest impression on me, even more than sitting next to Della Reese at a concert - and she is a formidable woman, was hearing Max Roach perform.

Before the cruise I had been unlucky enough to have never heard, or heard of Mr. Roach. The first night I heard him play, I was mesmerized. I had never heard anything, anything at all like this! The man didn't just drum out rhythms, he drummed MELODIES! It was like magic to me, listening to him play, he did things I never even knew were possible.

A few years later, when I first moved to the neighborhood I live in now, I would run into this dapper, elderly man in the grocery store who was always personable, and friendly. We would smile and nod, and occasionally exchange a few words as we passed in the store or on the block outside. I found myself drawn to this old gentleman, engaged by his poise and charm and friendliness. One day as we passed him coming out of the store and exchanged niceties about the weather, the Bull asked me if I knew who that was. I responded that I saw him all the time and that there was something familiar about him. The Bull was happy to tell me that I'd been regularly chatting about the weather with Max Roach.

After a while I stopped seeing him around and the Bull eventually ran into his son who told him that his father had moved, was suffering from alzheimer's and couldn't stay in his apartment alone and care for himself anymore. I was sad to know I would never pass him in the street or in the store again, sad that the world would probably never see him play again. I guess I mourned the loss of him before he passed.

He did pass away on August 16, 2007. Somehow I missed hearing about it until today. I've spent more of the day listening to him on youtube than doing the cleaning and organizing I've planned, so I guess I'm mourning him again. I wonder if there will ever again be such a unique blend of beauty and grace, rhythm and melody, charm and vitality as lived under the name of Max Roach.


Dee said...

I was lucky enough to hear him (and meet him, I think) as a kid. His "brother" is a family friend.

professor said...

how sad it is that NO ONE heard...I guess he wasn't "news worthy" cousin played with him when he traveled...

The Bear Maiden said...

I heard about it, vaguely, buried in a slew of other "more important" things.

Thanks for posting this.