Posts Tagged ‘Max Roach’
Trumpeter Donald Byrd’s music traversed several musical styles during the course of his prolific career, beginning with hard bop (Byrd In Flight) and eventually embracing soul-jazz (Blackbyrd) and fusion (Electric Byrd). A masterful technician known for his lush tone, Byrd became the most important hard-bop trumpeter in jazz following the tragic car accident that ended the career of his main rival, Clifford Brown, in 1956.
Born in Detroit, Byrd collaborated with Yusef Lateef, Pepper Adams and other local jazz artists before serving in the Air Force and received a B.A. in music from Wayne State University as well as an M.A. in music education from the Manhattan School of Music. Honing his craft playing with Art Blakey, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, among others, he recorded for Prestige from 1956 until signing with Blue Note in 1958. Byrd’s
Byrd made several memorable albums as a leader for Blue Note through 1967 and then began to distance himself from the acoustic funk of the East Coast’s hard bop movement and move towards the West Coast funk being popularized at that time by the Jazz Crusaders.
With this funked-up ode to a kind streetwalker, Byrd tries his hand at a Pretty Woman scenario. Fans of well-orchestrated, blazingly cool, breezy funk will get into this 1973 record at once. The flutes and horns kick out the sweetest little hooks on opener “Lansana’s Priestess,” while the rest of the album
goes bananas with the wah-wah pedals and synthesizers. Produced by Larry Mizell, with whom Byrd had worked together previously on the “Black Byrd” album, a soaring bit of futuristic jazz funk that took Byrd’s career to a whole new level, but this album’s the one where they really began to make the formula cook, blending together tight funky rhythms, spacey keyboards, soulful vocals, and some of Donald’s best solo work of the 70s!
Max Roach died at the age of 83, after several years of illness, on August 16th. The New York Times published a good article about his career as a music barrier breaking jazz drummer. “We insist!” is my favourite Max Roach record, altough he did so much awesome records it is hard to say which one is better. This one was never commercial success, but it was one of the first jazz records which adressed racial and political issues actively (and maybe now Archie Shepp comes to your mind?). “We insist” received mixed reviews, but it gives you a good impression on the anger and desperation of the black community in the United States in the 60ties and their struggle to gain equal rights. Abbey Lincoln, his later wife, appeared on some of the songs and interpreted the polemical lyrics in wonderful ways.
About himself Max Roach said 1990:
“You can’t write the same book twice. Though I’ve been in historic musical situations, I can’t go back and do that again. And though I run into artistic crises, they keep my life interesting.”