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These are classic jazz recordings not usually taught in general college (not to mention high school)

level music appreciation courses. But if the mainstream can keep reviving Showboat and other

racist memorabilia of that ilk, we damn sure need to get on top of our own alternative creations.



CDs by Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach

We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite It’s Time  /  Straight Ahead  / A Turtle’s Dream  /  When There Is Love / You Gotta Pay The Band /

 Abbey Sings Billie  /  The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker  / Charlie Parker The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-1948

Abbey Lincoln Songbook (1994)   / Burt Korall, Drummin' Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz The Bebop Years. Oxford University Press, 2004

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Revolutionary Black Music: Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln

We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite & Other Albums

Reviewed by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam

--from Breath of Life


“Triptych: Prayer / Protest / Peace”

This is the kind of music that can scare you into a new life. In terms of messing with your head, “Triptych” in particular is more potent that three tabs of uncut LSD. But let me back up to the late Fifties. Back to when sit-ins and Freedom Rides were forcing America to live up to the credos of democracy rather than persisting in ipso facto apartheid.

What did it take to face down a snarling police dog, a fire hose, a three hundred pound redneck deputy swinging an oak billy club, the Klan bombings and shootings? What it took to go toe-to-toe with that required a bravery that was way beyond the norm. Where did that strength come from? The music knew. Jazz musicians in particular were at the forefront of trumpeting this fierce freedom declaration. They knew that bravery was our birthright.

Even though many of us have never investigated this revolutionary music in any depth and most of never even heard of it, let alone actually listened to it, this is the music of our lives, our daily lives over a 400-year history. Hopefully this week’s Breath of Life can aurally illuminate this wondrous sound of freedom.

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Anna Marie Wooldridge was born in Chicago on August 6, 1930. She grew up in rural Michigan. Started playing the piano as a precocious five-year-old. Eventually decided to pursue music and moved to Los Angeles where she met Bob Russell who eventually became her manager and was responsible for giving her the stage name of Abbey Lincoln. Actually Abbey was her second stage name. The first one had been Gaby Lee.

I’m Aminata Moseka. I got a bunch of names. Anna Marie Wooldridge was the name I was born with. Then I took Gaby because the people at the Moulin Rouge in Los Angeles wanted me to have a French name. They didn’t know I already had one. I didn’t either. Anna Marie is as French as it gets. And Wooldridge is English. They gave me Gaby and kept Wooldridge so I had a German and an English name. It’s America! [laughs] And then Bob Russell named me Abbey Lincoln, because we used to sit and talk about life. He understood how I felt about my people because he felt the same way about his. He said to me, "Well, since Abraham Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, maybe you could handle it." Named me Abbey Lincoln and I laughed, but that’s the name that I took. Abbey for Westminster Abbey he told me, and Lincoln for Abraham Lincoln. He was aware of his self and of his people—socially aware. He’s the first socially aware person that I met. Bob Russell. Roach is socially aware. Duke Ellington, all of the great ones.

—Abbey Lincoln interview by Lara Pellegrinelli

In her early twenties, Abbey hit the jackpot. Big time! She was on the cover of Ebony magazine. It was the Fifties. Marilyn Monroe was the hottest star in Hollywood. Abbey had a figure to match Monroe’s, curve for curve and then some. Abbey had a cameo in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield movie The Girl Can’t Help It for which Abbey wore the flaming red Monroe dress.

Abbey’s performance in the independent 1964 film Nothing But A Man was widely acclaimed. She followed up with top billing in 1968’s For Love of Ivy opposite Sidney Poitier, the most famous and influential Black actor of his era. The rest would have been history had not Ms. Lincoln decided stardom as a sexy siren was not her calling. Ms. Lincoln decided to respond to the freedom movement. In the Sixties, she opted out of the sex kitten/vixen role. She was among the first to wear her hair natural and probably the only person to consciously abandon a lucrative career in the entertainment industry.

"I was innocent and inexperienced, and in Hollywood there were people who were interested in selling me," Abbey Lincoln told Jill Nelson for an April 1992 article in Essence magazine. "People make you over, the give you other songs to sing, you wear the clothes they choose, they find you a personality they think will sell. It’s all about prostitution, when you come down to it."

Abbey credits Max Roach as the person who introduced her to new ideas, new people, new experiences, all of which had a strong political bent.

In an interview conducted in the 1970s in Los Angeles, Abbey told Gallery 41, “I was in New York, miserable because I was working supper clubs but I wasn’t expressing myself. I was really unhappy with my life. I saw [Max] again and he told me I didn’t have to do things like that. He made me an honest woman on the stage. I have been performing in that tradition since. I feel that I’m a serious performer now whereas then I wanted to be but I didn’t know how.”

By the early Sixties, Max and Abbey married and toured extensively. Even though their ten-year marriage did not last—Max never again worked in tandem on a long term basis with a vocalist, nevertheless Lincoln’s commitment to producing meaningful music has persisted throughout her fifty-plus year career.

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I saw Ms. Lincoln a number of times over the years. The first was at the 1968 Dillard University Black Arts Festival in New Orleans. Max’s band was a piano-less, sax-trumpet-bass-drums quartet plus Abbey Lincoln on vocals. The band challenged every preconception I had about how much music four instruments and a voice could make. It was akin to a heart transplant. When they finished, I was not the same. I had new ideas swirling in my head. I stood taller, my stride was more deliberate. I believed I could do and be anything, and more importantly I could now truly imagine a brave new Black world. I was ready to do battle, emboldened. The air tasted fresher. Everyone who was there in that gymnasium that night was thoroughly moved—you should have heard the thunder of the ovations that Max, Abbey, and the other musicians received. We clapped so loudly and so strongly you not only heard us, you literally felt the physically vibrant force of our applause.

Particularly when Max and Abbey did the tour-de-force “Triptych,” (from We Insist!) I just stood next to the stage, holding my camera in my hand but not raising it to shoot. I was mesmerized. Abbey Lincoln was riveting. I was stunned. I literally just stood there. I’m sure my mouth was hanging agape.

I knew about vocalese, the fitting of lyrics to famous jazz solos, but “Tryptich” was several levels beyond because there are literally no words in English to describe specific aspects of our historic and contemporary experiences. Abbey and Max made me believe in time travel, believe in the power of a secular Holy Ghost, a terrible Shiva-force that destroyed you to renew you. I was afraid for her—and for myself also. It seemed as though she might hurt herself. It seemed as if I should do something helpful and not just be a stationary stump while she was going through this. This was not just jazz. This was a religious experience. A new way to live.

Whether wordlessly emoting or crafting incredibly moving readings of standards, Abbey Lincoln had a way with sounds and words that went far beyond what the majority of singers were doing. This was not birds and bees. This was Sankofa, Signifying Monkeys, and a Brer Rabbit band of underground guerillas. My Lord, what a music!

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Max Roach’s “Lonesome Lover” was used as the closing theme song for Larry McKinley’s Saturday afternoon This Is Jazz program on WYLD, at the time the leading Black radio station in New Orleans. Max mixed the political force of jazz with the spiritual force of gospel, producing a music you immediately recognized and related to but nevertheless a music you had never experienced before, a music that helped transform you into a you that had never existed before.

Max Roach was an awe-inspiring innovator and Abbey Lincoln in all her beauty was right there giving fierce feminine voice to the freedom we all yearned for. Just the title, “Lonesome Lover,” was a commentary befitting times when beatings, jail and sometimes death was a common response to expressions of opposition to the palpable oppression and seemingly endless exploitation of status quo segregation. We were certainly in love with ourselves and each other but we were often also isolated as any vanguard is; self-proclaimed “Blacks” struggling to swim within a sea of Negroes, struggling not just to survive but struggling also to transform the sea itself into a mighty social force, a Black tide rising. Max and Abbey were producing a soundtrack for revolution. “Lonesome Lover” was a cut from an album whose title confronted you if you were inactive, urged you on it you were in motion. The album was simply called  It’s Time.

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At the turn of the 20th century, Paul Laurence Dunbar was the Black poet of America. Vocalist/composer Oscar Brown Jr. put music to the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem "When Malindy Sings." Abbey Lincoln, who published essays championing Black power, embraced Dunbar’s dialect lyrics and gave a totally sincere and serious interpretation whose subtext is a philosophical championing of Black music. This is from Abbey’s fourth solo album, which announced her new found direction: Straight Ahead.

These are classic jazz recordings not usually taught in general college (not to mention high school) level music appreciation courses. But if the mainstream can keep reviving Showboat and other racist memorabilia of that ilk, we damn sure need to get on top of our own alternative creations. Consider this week on BoL a ladder to climb up to a higher level. Stand on the sound shoulders of 20th century revolutionary Black music.—Kalamu ya Salaam

P.S. For $4.95, iTunes offers a download of the whole We Insist album. No excuses. Get it!

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Definite classics        

Man, it’s hard to even know how to respond to all of this. I had no idea that Abbey could’ve been a movie star. I mean, I have eyes—I knew she was pretty enough; I just didn’t know she’d gone in that direction. So mostly, I’m thankful for all of the background information on Abbey and I’m thankful for Kalamu’s personal story about listening to Abbey and Max and their band tearing it up live.

Kalamu and I chose to make this a blog about Black music, but I listen to a lot of other music too. I’m bringing that up now because I never would’ve thought that a jazz band could produce the raw sound power of some of the alternative rock bands I like. The middle section of "Triptych" sounds like…. It’s hard to say what, but damn! You know? (Great cover photo too. All three cats looking so clean in their suits and ties, glancing back at the camera like, "What?")

I was already familiar with "Lonesome Lover" and "When Malindy Sings." Both are great records. Definite classics.

It’s funny that I’m the one who actually kicked off this week on Abbey Lincoln. It’s funny because I knew next to nothing about her. That’s one of the advantages of having Kalamu as a father and as a writing partner. If I ever want to know something about a jazz or soul artist, I can just write a half-assed piece on them and he’ll jump in and do the rest. (I’m sitting here already deciding on my next selection. Let’s see: Dexter Gordon? Tania Maria? Choices, choices. We’ll see….)—Mtume ya Salaam

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"Triptych" Is A Duet!         

Mtume, "Triptych" is just two people, drummer Max Roach and vocalist Abbey Lincoln. There are no other instruments. And if "Triptych" sounds "damn" on record, you shoulda oughta heard it live. The power of Black beings on fire!

By the way, sometimes we called this music “Fire Music.” I’m sure it is obvious why on an aesthetic level, but there is more. The conscious musicians wanted to do away with the stigma associated with the term jazz, just like we were beating Negro out of our mouths and consciousnesses.

As for the cover of We Insist, here’s the deal: The record came out August 31, 1960. It dropped like a sneak nuclear attack.

February 1, 1960 four young men—Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil—later known as the Greensboro Four—conducted the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Within a week, students were sitting-in at lunch counters in over 54 cities all up and down Dixieland. Most of us today have no idea how tumultuous those early days of the non-violent revolution were. Seven months after the first sit-in, Max and Abbey and a crew of cohorts (including Nigerian drummer Olatunji) produced We Insist! This was the soundtrack of social upheaval. The cover commemorates the sit-in movement.

I know Kind Of Blue is the most popular jazz record of that era, but We Insist! was by far the most socially conscious. Moreover, make no mistake, although Max Roach was clearly the leader, Abbey Lincoln was much, much more than simply wifey helpmate. She was a comrade and proud co-conspirator. Without Abbey’s contribution, the session could not have been done. Unlike some other recordings, one can not think of even one other vocalist who could have substituted for her. As we write this history of Black music, we must always be cognizant of the seminal and sine qua non contributions of Black women, both on stage as artists and off-stage as supporters and behind the scenes operatives.

—Kalamu ya Salaam


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Post-Battle, Twilight Reflections

I have a lot to say and I don’t like the world that I found myself in, that I was created to be in. I was brought here, but I don’t like this ‘here.’ It’s the pits! If I wasn’t able to access myself through the work, I would have dropped dead a long time ago. I couldn’t have stood it here. —Abbey Lincoln 

When Abbey Lincoln sings it sounds like she’s crying. She also has the slight slur of someone who’s worked hard to recover from a stroke. Not that I’m saying she’s actually had one (or hasn’t - I really don’t know); if you listen to her classic records, that overly-soft way with consonants was there even then. Singing – the kind of singing I like, at least – is funny that way: perfection is generally unimportant. What is important is soul, and Abbey has that in spades. 

When Abbey sings, you believe the words. When Abbey sings, you sometimes feel things you didn’t know you could feel and think things you’ve never thought about before. Her singing adds dimensions to simple songs and clarifies confusing ones. When Abbey sings, you know what she means even when you don’t know what she means.

I know that Abbey was once associated, both professionally and matrimonially, with jazz drummer Max Roach. I know that she’s held in high regard by critics and fans alike and I know that her voice (supposedly) isn’t what it used to be. Other than that, Kalamu will have to fill in the blanks. The only other things I know about Abbey are the songs I like.
I like a lot of her older music, but the three I’m putting in the jukebox are from Abbey’s (relatively) recent albums on Verve. "Throw It Away" and "Storywise" are from her fantastic 1995 album A Turtle’s Dream . “Throw It Away” sounds like a contemplation of the famous saying that begins “If you love something, set it free.”

“Keep your hand wide open,” Abbey says, “if you’re needing anything.”

“Storywise” reminds me of Sun Ra when he covers standards: the song is ostensibly cheery, but there’s a certain melancholy and intelligence in the performance of the lyrics that suggests there’s more going on than the obvious.

The instrumentation of both songs is strong enough that they’d work even without Abbey’s superb vocals. “Throw It Away” floats in and out of your consciousness like the soundtrack to a dream. “Storywise” flits along happily—a butterfly in Dixieland—before suddenly shifting to a bluesy half-time groove. Listening to these tunes I have to keep reminding myself that the composer is the singer and the singer is the composer. In the world of jazz, that usually isn’t the way it works.

There’s one more tune I want to include this week and it’s "I Should Care" from Abbey’s 1994 release When There Is Love, a recording of duets with pianist Hank Jones. "I Should Care" isn’t an Abbey Lincoln original. It’s a standard and as such, it’s written in the old style: a story disguised as a song. There’s a set-up, a conflict and a pay-off and Abbey takes her time with all three, especially the pay-off…even if it is only three short words long.
—Mtume ya Salaam


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Down Here Below         

I drink A Turtle’s Dream . It’s medicinal.

On the 24th of March 2007 I make 60 years old. I move much more slowly thru the ruins and rough weather of post-Katrina New Orleans. But I have to shine, be firelight, a beacon for the youth to see, and now follow, but rather be their torch light as they navigate their own journeys forward. My responsibility—or I should say the responsibility I have assumed—is to give to the youth. I have not so much energy left, and only a few years. But there is a truck load of experience rivering my gut and endless compassion palpitating in my chest, both of them supporting a clear-eyed oppositional thought and practice that proffers the often painful mirror of truth to the youth.


A Turtle’s Dream . Literally. This music could be my elder statement if I were as wise and beautiful as Abbey is. I constantly dream of being so. Listen to this music. And dream. And work. To be the beauty of lamplight used by youth as they seek to make sense out of the confusion of 21st century life. Listen to “Being Me.”

One of my former students called me the other day. I joked I must be talking to a clone because this does not sound like the person I know. She replied she had bad news. Her mother died on Mardi Gras day. Thursday, March 1st, my friend Doug had to go to the emergency ward at the hospital. Touro’s waiting room looked like Charity (the pre-hurricane public hospital) used to look, only not as large. People were sprawled throughout the forty-by-twenty foot (or so) room in various states of physical and emotional discomfort. You’d have to leave the city to find another emergency room. That’s right, if you have an emergency you might have to leave town to get treatment. I’m sitting there with my friend Doug and with his primary caretaker, Carol. The three of us. And I look around. I’m emotionally in an utter funk. I try to make jokes to keep Doug from feeling too weary and whipped. All the time I’m hearing Abbey singing: “Down Here Below.” Down. Here. Below.

Damn. It is one of life’s great mysterious miracles how we can make pain sound so beautiful. How we can hammer the syllables of “hurt” and literally beat them into “hope.”

You might not understand my words, but listen to the music and you’ll catch my meaning. Thank you Abbey Lincoln. Asante sana (thank you very much).
—Kalamu ya Salaam

P.S. (I’m writing this one day after writing the above.) I really should say a bit more—not that it will be any easier to comprehend, but there is another facet I think I ought to focus on.

Like a coterie of conscious jazz musicians before her, America forced Abbey into exile. She changed her name for a third time and became Aminata Mosaka. I don’t know if you have ever talked with some of the folk whose lives depended on fleeing these shores but it is a sobering conversation.  There is nothing romantic about going into exile. Especially when racism and capitalism runs you out of America and, in order to continue your career, you end up in Europe. It is a really, really complex reality, not easily talked about, not easily understood. Do you know what it means for a person born in diaspora to be forced from a country where they were born but a country that has never fully been their homeland? The diasporan double displacement!

That’s why it is miraculous when any Black someone survives exile with their body, mind and soul intact, not to mention survives it and returns to tell the tale. You will notice that roughly half of the music in this week’s jukebox comes from one album: A Turtle’s Dream . (Do I need to say more?) OK? Do you understand?

A Turtle’s Dream  comes from the tail end of Abbey’s career. We Insist!  is from the early years. Insist is about urging on the warriors. Dream is post-battle, twilight reflections. I think we all need both. We do. We need to fight forward. We need to reflect on the past. We need all of that.

Abbey Lincoln is an amazing woman. She has been steady forward for over fifty years. Fifty years of tender fierceness. Please, please listen to her.

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Abbey Lincoln Is Essential

Abbey interprets others, starting with a Depression Era song, “Brother? Can You Spare A Dime?” I had heard the song numerous times but it was only when I heard Abbey’s version that I really, really heard and understood the song—especially the anti-war sentiment. Also of note: Stan Getz reveals himself here as his own man, not a wispy ghost nor a lightweight version of Lester Young, but instead a full flesh and blood man with great vision and generous warmth. If only for Stan’s tenor solo this version is noteworthy, but given that this is an Abbey Lincoln recording there is much, much more, namely a peerless albeit painful presentation that eschews self-pity and instead is almost accusatory in its reminisces, like pointing to a criminal and saying, “You shot me! Do you remember? I remember.” Today, “Dime’s” subtext is easily read as a demand for reparations rather than a servile request for a handout. As if to underscore her intentions, the title of Abbey’s album is You Gotta Pay The Band.

“Blue Monk” is Abbey fitting her words to a Thelonious Monk classic and it is an excellent fit. This time the horn soloist is eminence grise Coleman Hawkins, the progenitor of the tenor solo in modern jazz. Trivia note: Hawkins was the first to bring Thelonious Monk to national attention. The arrangement saunters along at a half-fast strolling pace almost as if the musicians had no particular destination in mind, but that is just the cool exterior on an intense blue flame of a blues.  After Hawkins’ masterful solo, Abbey does her wordless thing—not quite scatting, more like oohhhing and aahhhing her way up and down the scale. It’s a quintessential blues performance. This is from Abbey’s early solo recording Straight Ahead .

“Crazy He Calls Me,” is Abbey’s respectful tribute to Billie Holiday, the singer who first inspired Ms. Lincoln.

 I heard Billie Holiday when I was 14, on a Victrola, in the country, where I was living. She was always a great influence on my life. She was social. And she didn’t try to prove that she had a great instrument. This is not the form for people who use that approach. That’s the European classical tradition. We have voices. Louis Armstrong was a great singer. It has nothing to do with having a great voice. So I had a chance to listen and to meet many of these great performers and singers, and I come from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, all of these people. I sing in that tradition. I don’t try for anything they do, just like they didn’t try for anything that anybody else was doing, but interpret a song on a level of understanding and with skills, knowing where one is. —Abbey Lincoln

Abbey does Billie better than anyone in the business. Abbey’s got the behind-the-beat phrasing down pat, plus Abbey knows how to invest great meaning into simple syllables. Abbey understands her function as a diasporan griot. “Crazy” is from Abbey Sings Billie.

We close with “Nature Boy,” a philosophical song popularized by Nat ‘King’ Cole. This one is also from A Turtle’s Dream. Repeatedly over her career Abbey’s presence brings out the best in others. To share the stage with her is to be elevated, is to be inspired to go beyond your usual goings. The encouraging force of her gentle personality is massive.

Well, that’s it. An introduction to Abbey Lincoln. If this is your first time hearing Abbey’s music, hopefully it will not be the last. If you find out that you like this music, please share it with others. If you don’t like it, please listen again. Abbey Lincoln is essential.
—Kalamu ya Salaam

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Reasons to love Abbey        

Great songs. "Blue Monk" has always sounded like a New Orleans record to me and Abbey’s version is no different. I usually hear it at a faster tempo. At this speed, it sounds like a funeral dirge. (In a good way.) I love the way Abbey sings. It’s like she said in her quote: she’s obviously not even attempting to sound ‘pretty’ or ‘perfect’ or, for that matter, like anyone else she’s ever heard. Abbey sings like Abbey. And what a solo by Coleman Hawkins! His sound comes leaping out of the speakers. (Well, the speaker at least. It sounds like he’s only in one channel.)

"Crazy He Calls Me." Fantastic. I like how you can hear that Abbey’s singing in Billie’s style, but she still isn’t exactly trying to sound like Billie. This one reminds me a lot of "I Should Care." Abbey is excellent at singing those slow, slow torch songs.

Not so into this version of "Nature Boy." I don’t know why. Maybe I’m too used to George Benson’s up-tempo pop/jazz version. That’s the one I grew up with and the one I still like best. (I’m ducking now, ‘cause Kalamu’s about to let me have it.)

Not so crazy about "Brother? Can You Spare A Dime?" either, but I get the feeling that one could grow on me. I don’t have any personal connection with the lyrics—they sound like something indelibly marked as belonging to another era. It’s also hard for me to get into a woman singing the song when it’s obviously written from the point of view of a man (and Abbey even leaves the gender-specific lyrics in there). Anyway, two out of four ain’t bad. That’s just two more reasons to love Abbey Lincoln.
—Mtume ya Salaam


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More on Max Roach

Maxwell Lemuel Roach (born January 10, 1924) is a percussionist, drummer, and jazz composer. . . .Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina, to Alphonse and Cressie Roach; his family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was 4 years old. He grew up in a musical context , his mother being a gospel singer, and he started to play bugle in parade orchestras at a young age. At the age of 10, he was already playing drums in some gospel bands. He performed his first big-time gig in New York City at the age of sixteen, substituting for Sonny Greer in a performance with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

In 1942, Roach started to go out in the jazz clubs of the 52nd Street and at 78th Street & Broadway for Georgie Jay's Taproom (playing with schoolmate Cecil Payne). He was one of the first drummers (along with Kenny Clarke) to play in the bebop style, and performed in bands led by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis. Roach played on many of Parker's most important records, including the Savoy 1945 session, a turning point in recorded jazz.

Source: Wikipedia

posted 4 March 2007 /

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A great place to begin appreciating Roach's drumming gifts is with "Koko" on the reissued The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker (Mercury). "Koko" was the bop centerpiece on the 1945 session Roach appeared with Parker on; you can find it on The Charlie Parker Story (Savoy). There's a 20-second drum solo on that Parker recording that's quintessential Roach: snazzy ride-cymbal splashes, fiery snare-drum rolls, surprising bass accents. As handsomely constructed as that solo was, prepare to be electrified by the drumming on The Max Roach 4's "Koko." In a solo seven times longer than the 1945 version, Roach plays in front of and behind the beat, stops and starts the pulse unexpectedly, and plays melodic variations that counterpoint the quick changes voiced by saxophonist George Coleman (who performs on three of the tunes here; the rest are handled by Hank Mobley) and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. And Roach sounds like an impassioned bandleader, provoking his group to play the hardest of hard bop. When this winning Parker tribute album was originally released, around 1957, the idea of a drummer as towering leader was still a bit outré, with only Art Blakey performing in a like format.

Source: Boston Phoenix

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Jazz Drummer Max Roach Dies -- Maxwell Roach, a  founder of Modern Jazz—born on 10 January 1924, in the small town of New Land, N.C., grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn—died 16 August 2007 in Manhattan. . . . "It all comes down to originality," Roach told jazz critic Leonard Feather some years ago. . . . “There was one unforgettable night when I worked with Pres [Lester Young] at Birdland. Because I was with Pres, and because he and Papa Jo Jones were so close in the Basie band, I played all of Papa Jo's old licks. At the end of the evening, after I said good night to Pres, he gave me one of those succinct lessons in that personal language of his. He said, 'You can't join the throng until you write your own song. . . .That's a great lesson, something that stays with you the rest of your life; this music allows you, prefers you to be an individual, to do your own thing." Revolutionary Black Music: Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln / We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite Funeral -- Friday, August 24th at Riverside Church in Manhattan.  Viewing will be at 9 AM.  Services at 11 AM

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Max Roach 1924-2007: Thousands Pay Tribute to the Legendary Jazz Drummer, Educator, Activist

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Over 2,000 people gathered at Riverside Church in New York on Friday for the funeral of the legendary drummer, educator and activist Max Roach, who died on August 16 at the age of 83. He was credited with helping to revolutionize the sound of modern jazz and for playing a prominent role in the struggle for black liberation at home and in Africa. We speak with two men who have known Roach for decades: Amiri Baraka and Phil Schaap. . . .

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Max Roach on Drumming:

[This] instrument is totally different from any other percussion instrument on the face of the earth. And the technique for dealing with this instrument has added another dimension to the technique of dealing with percussion instruments generally. For example, this instrument, you deal with all four limbs. Most of these percussion instruments in the world that we see, whether they are in Europe, Africa, the Far East, they all play with just their hands. This instrument has added another dimension, and that’s your two feet.

And the basis of that is -- I’ll give you an example. You play one thing with your right hand. You call this the swing beat. You play another thing with your base drum. That's the four-four beat. Then you play another rhythm that's totally different with your left hand. That's the shuffle beat. Then with your left foot you play a Charleston beat. Now, in that sense, that’s the essence of this particular drum: you have to learn to deal with all four elements, and they have to blend together, similar to, say, a string quartet. You have to hear everything.

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Phil Schaap on Max Roach

Well, he's, first of all, the drummer for bebop. And bebop is as much a change in jazz as one can imagine, other than its birth through swing. It’s the change of the flow of the rhythm. He's the drummer who changed that flow. He was the drummer on Charlie Parker's first records, Miles Davis's first records, Stan Getz’s first records, Bud Powell’s first records, J.J. Johnson's first records. He's the drummer on The Birth of the Cool. He's the drummer on the first bebop records, period.

And bebop is an important thing. It's sort of like a language, a root language like Latin. People actually don't play bebop. We don't actually speak Latin. What we speak are the languages that are descendent. One of the key ones would be hard bop. Max Roach is as much an innovator to that breakthrough as anybody we could name. And he sort of retooled bebop, making it funkier, and he made it more blues-rooted therefore, forceful, and, most astoundingly, prettier.

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Amiri Baraka on Max Roach

Well, see, one thing that Max – and Max was a great historian, too. I mean, when I used to go to his house two, three times a week or a year or so, year and a half, to write his biography, one thing he told me, he said that the whole drum set is an industrial machine. It's not like hand drums. And so that—and it actually reflects the one-man bands that came off the plantation, where they would put the cymbals and everything on their back and go down and try to make a living playing all those things at once, horns and – you know, so that this industrial instrument – there's even a movie that was made, a film, made by – jeez, I taught with this guy at Yale – but, anyway, a film where he takes Tony Williams to Africa and sets up the instrument on the shore and plays.

And a couple minutes later, from the interior, they answer him -- ba-da ba-da -- with the hand drum. And they say, “We hear you all.” In other words, they thought it was a lot of people. They say, “We hear you all, but we do not understand what you're saying,” to show you the difference between, you know, the Afro-American and the Africans, say, “We do not understand what you're saying.”  

But Max had that kind of – that genealogy in what he did. He knew hand drum, you know, and he could sort of reflect that genealogy, I mean, from old-time through swing. You know, his mentor, I guess, was Jo Jones, but also it was a Wilson Driver, who had something to do with that. So he reflected an old tradition, you know.

I did a gig with him and Archie Shepp in Philadelphia one time, and I came there with all my poetry, and he says to me, “No, no, you can't read anything. You’ve got to do what we do. We’re going to improvise. You have to improvise.” I said, “Oh, my god! This is going to be wild.”

*   *   *   *   *

Maya Angelou, Bill Cosby, Amira Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and others credited Roach with helping to revolutionize the sound of modern jazz and for playing a prominent role in the struggle for black liberation at home and in Africa. . . .

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Digging Max

By Amiri Baraka

Seventy Five, All The Way Live!)
Max is the highest
The outest the
Largest, the greatest
The fastest, the hippest,
The all the way past which
There cannot be

When we say MAX, that’s what
We mean, hip always
Clean. That’s our word
For Artist, Djali, Nzuri Ngoma,
Senor Congero, Leader,
Scientist of Sound, Sonic
Trappist Definer, Composer,
Democrat, Bird’s Black Injun
Engine, Brownie’s Other Half,
Abbey’s Djeli-

ya - Graph
Who baked the Western industrial
singing machine
Into temperatures of syncopated

Out Sharp Mean

Papa Joe’s Successor
Philly Joe’s Confessor
AT’s mentor, Roy Haynes’
Inventor, Steve McCall’s
Trainer, Ask Buhainia. Jimmy Cobb,
Elvin or Klook
Or even Sunny Murray, when he aint
in a hurry.
Milford is down and Roy Brooks
Is one of his cooks. Tony Williams,
Jack DeJohnette,
Andrew Cyrille can tell you or
youngish Pheeroan
Beaver and Blackwell and my man,
Dennis Charles.
They’ll run it down, ask them the next
time they in town.

Ask any or all of the rhythm’n.
Shadow cd tell you, so could
Shelly Manne, Chico Hamilton.
Rashid knows, Billy Hart. Eddie
From Newark has split, but he and
Eddie Gladden could speak on it.
Mtume, if he will. Big Black can
speak. Let Tito Puente run it down,
He and Max been tight since they
were babies in this town.

Frankie Dunlop cd tell you and he
speak a long time.
Pretty Purdy is hip. Max hit with
Duke at Eighteen
He played with Benny Carter when he
first made the scene. Dig the heavy learning that went with
that. Newk knows,
And McCoy. CT would agree. Hey,
ask me or Archie or Michael Carvin
Percy Heath, Jackie Mc are all hip to
the Max Attack.

Barry Harris can tell you. You in
touch with Monk or Bird?
Ask Bud if you see him, You know he
know, even after the cops
Beat him Un Poco Loco. I mean you
can ask Pharaoh or David
Or Dizzy, when he come out of hiding,
its a trick Diz just outta sight.
I heard Con Alma and Diz and Max
In Paris, just the other night.

But ask anybody conscious, who Max
Roach be. Miles certainly knew
And Coltrane too. All the cats who
know the science of Drum, know
where our
Last dispensation come from. That’s
why we call him, MAX, the ultimate,
The Furthest Star. The eternal
internal, the visible invisible, the
From afar.

All Hail, MAX, from On to Dignataria
to Serious and even beyond!
He is the mighty SCARAB, Roach the SCARAB, immortal as
our music, world without end.
Great artist Universal Teacher, and
for any Digger
One of our deepest friends! Hey MAX!

Source: Democracy Now

*   *   *   *   *

"I am an American and the drum set is one of the few instruments native to this country . . . . This is a democratic nation and jazz is a democratic music in which we all express ourselves as individuals and cooperate for the overall good. That's good enough for the bandstand and it is good enough for the world. In music, you can make a dream come to life as a reality of design and feeling. Democracy is a dream of being able to do it better someday. I have never stopped dreaming." —Max Roach

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Max Roach—Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace

Abbey Lincoln—Driva' Man/Protest   / Soesja Citroen—Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln—People in Me Abbey LincolnDown here Below

Max Roach—All Africa / Abbey Lincoln—Where Are The African Gods?

Jazz Profiles from NPR Abbey Lincoln  /  Max Roach—Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln—Spread the Word  / Abbey Lincoln: Throw It Away  / Abbey Lincoln—Down Here Below (1995)

*   *   *   *   *

The State of African Education (April 200)

Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk

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Freedomways Reader: Prophets in Their Own Country
By Constance Pohl  and Esther Cooper Jackson

A collection of over 50 articles originally published in Freedomways, one of the premier African-American intellectual periodicals during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Until now, these documents, which show the depth and breadth of the struggle for democracy, had been lost to the public. The publication of the Freedomways Reader restores this lost treasury. It contains what amounts to an oral history of the liberation movements of the 1960s through the 1980s. Through the reports of the Freedom Riders, the early articles against the Vietnam War and South African apartheid, the short stories and poems of Alice Walker, and the memoirs of black organizers in the Jim Crow south of the Thirties, one can walk in the footsteps of these pioneers. When it was created in 1961, the goal of the publication Freedomways was "to serve as a vehicle of communication, which will mirror developments in the diversified many-sided struggles of the Negro people."

By the time of its demise in 1986, it had tracked the peril and promise of the civil rights era and the bewildering decade of the 1970s. This informative reader, compiled by the magazine's cofounder Esther Cooper Jackson, covers the full scope of Freedomways' history. In addition to contributions by W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and James Baldwin, the magazine boasted three Nobel Prize winners in Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, and Derek Walcott. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee graced its pages, along with then-rising stars Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and Jesse Jackson. Covering topics as diverse as politics, culture, jazz, the antiwar movement, Pan-Africanism, prison, and education, Freedomways Reader is an excellent diary of late-20th-century African American life.—Eugene Holley Jr

Jackson was the original editor of Freedomways, a quarterly magazine published between 1961 and 1986, chronicling the struggle for racial justice in the U.S. The magazine featured contributions by many of the luminaries of black literature, art, and politics, including three Nobel Prize laureates: Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, and Derek Wolcott. Other contributors included Alice Walker, James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Jomo Kenyatta, C. L. R. James, and common black folk. The collection features poetry, essays, speeches, articles. There are memoirs of a Birmingham coal miner, tributes to Paul Robeson, and reflections of black feminists, labor organizers, and prisoners. The anthology begins with articles actually written in the 1940s and 1950s, which provide historical context for the journal itself, followed by the pieces, organized topically, e.g., the Southern movement, international solidarity, the movement in the North, and art and activism. This comprehensive collection reflects the global nature of the struggle for equality and the longing for racial justice over an important 25-year period.—Vanessa Bush, Booklist


*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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