Music Revolution 2010: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he addressed the rationale of the American colonists revolting against England’s tyrant King George due to the needs and desire to destroy a failing form of government or power over a population. He goes on to say that we must not exclude ourselves of the same liability, thus making us susceptible to the same breakdown and rebirth should the time and circumstances come.
I have a strong sense the we, in America, are on the brink of a massive musical revolution. Those of you who are reading this may think that I am wrong, given the current state of mainstream music. But I feel that the ineptitude of today’s popular music scene is in fact paving the way for something large to take over. We must be willing to take a look back to our leaders so that we’ll know how much further we have to take things. Tonight, I’m starting that journey with Brooklyn’s own Max Roach (1924-2007). A drummer extraordinaire, Roach cultivated his talent to make loud statements about the state of Black community in a dense, thought-provoking jazz presentation. We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, his 1960 album, called attention to the fermenting civil rights movement, further exemplified by its cover: A candid photograph of a sit-in. His compositions and heavy drum work combined expertly with the moody saxophone of Coleman Hawkins, the rhetorically incendiary lyrics of Oscar Brown and the subtle fury of Abbey Lincoln’s vocals. The essence of Roach’s greatness on this piece was that he was completely aware of the present climate while understanding and embracing his history. Some can do one or the other. Max Roach’s Freedom Now shows that he clearly achieved both.