November 30, 2000
I was sitting in front of the barricade below the stage. Out from the dressing room I saw Max Roach scoot along towards the stage. He had two people on either side helping him walk. I was just happy to see the guy. I didn't care if he was too old, at 77, to put on a "drum clinic."
This was the guy who changed the way jazz drummers approached the instrument. He defined bebop and hard bop drumming. Roach was the first to spell out the pulse of a song with a ride cymbal, not the kick drum. The All Music Guide says that "the result was a lighter, far more flexible texture, giving drummers more freedom to explore the possibilities of their drum kits and drop random 'bombs' on the snare drum." Roach played with everybody--Miles, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor...
So, I was psyched, no matter what happened. It was amazing what happened. When he sat down at his drum throne and started to play, it's like his old age went out the window and he was invigorated. He swung hard, and the thing I remember most was that he challenged my sensibility by using a lot of pauses during his playing. It was a great day. I'm happy to say Roach is still going strong at 80.