Friday, August 17, 2007

"Joy Spring" not so joyful now.

Playing right now: Anthony Braxton - For Alto

Last night I had to drive to the CVS so when I got in the car I put the radio on. It was tuned to WDUQ and the song playing was in the middle of a drum solo. It sounded familiar, something I had probably listened to a lot when I was in college and got to know well. (This is a recurring subject to me - how there was a time I knew music so well I could pinpoint the player in seconds, something that doesn't happen now.)

Anyway, I thought it was Max Roach and if it was Max, it must be "Joy Spring" one of my favorite songs that Clifford Brown wrote and recorded with Max. Sure enough I was right. Ha cha! Another point for me.
Then an NPR announcer came on, talking about Max's start in music when he was 20. "At the end of his life...," he continued.

WAIT A MINUTE, I thought..........."the end"??

Yeah, Max died yesterday morning. And it bummed me the hell out. Maybe it's because I have a son now and I can see that whole circle of life thing happening in front of me. Maybe it was because I felt mildly depressed all day yesterday for no particular reason, and quite possibly, maybe, I won't say for sure....I was somehow picking up on the fact that another jazz legend - this time one from the upper echelon of groundbreakers - was gone. Maybe I was feeling sad because, when I got the paper off the porch yesterday morning, I saw a bird on the ground who was still breathing but on its way to death......and maybe it happened at the same time that Max left this world.

Yes, I know that the bird metaphor is better used for Charlie Parker, but it seems like a syncronicity worth mentioning. And if this sounds maudlin, take a look at today (8/17's) installment of the comic strip "For Better Or For Worse" and try not get really nauseated. What I'm telling is real.

Anyhow, this blog is quickly becoming a place where I write about recently deceased musicians, which says something about me and the world of music I guess. I won't dwell on the saddness of Max Roach's passing, or "what this means for jazz." You can read that in more depth and detail somewhere else. (Might I suggest I'm sure there's something good there.)

The one thing I will say is that Max was badass until the end. He didn't take any guff from people. He was a civil rights activist in the '60s. In the '90s he was an outspoken supporter of rap, saying it was the true representation of black youth. And he supposedly clocked an interviewer for disaggreeing. He was so badass he could play solid bop and then turn around and play with Cecil Taylor and hang with him as well as Andrew Cyrille or Sunny Murray. Check out Max's Columbia album Chattahoochee Red to see how he was still pushing modern ideas within a straight ahead structure. And a few years ago, he and Clark Terry made an album together that was really bold too.

I guess I just contradicated myself, expounding about the genius of Max as I just did. If you really want to pay your respects, listen to his solo on the Jazz At Massey Hall album during "Salt Peanuts." Listen to how he builds on ideas, until he has Dizzy screaming in excitement. Listen to any and all Clifford Brown/Max Roach albums. Me, I'm thinking of picking up We Insist - The Freedom Now Suite because it's pretty intense and scary and moving.

And that's the way heavy music should make you feel.

My dad once met Max at a show up in the Hill. He addressed my dad as "Mr. Shanley," although he was clearly older than Pop by a few years. My dad didn't feel right, and said he felt that he should be addressing this gracious fellow as "Mr. Roach."

Addendum 11/10/12: I've been getting literally about 10 spam comments a day on this post so I'm dismantling the ability to comment on it.