Max Roach

Artist Max Roach was born Maxwell Lemuel Roach on January 10, 1924, in Newland, North Carolina; died on August 16, 2007, in New York City.

Max Roach, a pioneer in bebop, is one of the most important drummers in the history of jazz. During his career, he worked with jazz legends Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Clifford Brown.

Max Roach

“Max Roach”

Although Roach’s birth certificate lists his date of birth as January 10, his family believed he was born on January 8. At the age of four, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. Roach played bugle with parade groups and by ten was playing drums in gospel bands (his mother was a gospel singer). When he was 18, Roach filled in on drums with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Paramount Theater in New York.

During the 1940s, Roach played in jazz clubs where he introduced some major innovations in drumming, including playing a 4/4 time on the ride cymbal while using his snare drum for dramatic accents.

Roach was the drummer in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker; in fact, he played on most of Parker’s landmark recordings.

Text and images provided by the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.