Max Roach Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Max Roach Quartet 

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Max Roach plays the drums with such persuasive authority, and leads a band of such crisply committed modernists, that you could easily ignore his absolutely vital place in the development of jazz. On the other hand, a "You Are There" litany of his career's highlights--including his spot behind Charlie Parker on the first important bebop records; his work on Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool" sessions; his coleadership of the band that brought Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins to prominence; his ground-breaking essays into "political" music that celebrated black pride and attacked racial injustice--prohibits so shortsighted a view. Before bebop, jazz drummers carried a somewhat primitive image of club-wielding pulse keepers; Roach, with his street-smart mien, compositional solos, and polyrhythmic juggling, helped establish a new prototype altogether. (Roach, Kenny Clarke, and Art Blakey constitute a holy trinity of modern jazz drumming.) His solos still sing with that wizardly blend of melody and propulsion, and his five-course sets satisfy with a similar mixture of honey and pepper. Roach is nearly 70. Has he lost a stroke here and there? Of course. Does it matter? Of course not; he had more than enough to spare. His long-running quartet stars trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and saxist Odean Pope in the roles of the Spectacular Soloists. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

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