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Max Roach: Digging Max (1924-2007)

Max Roach
From Max Roach's funeral
Today's jazz drummers, all of them Max Roach's kin, assemble outside the master's funeral. The Riverside Church, NYC.

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, Mwalimu,

Scientist of Sound, Sonic Designer,

Trappist Definer, Composer, Revolutionary

Democrat, Bird’s Black Injun Engine, Brownie’s Other Half, Abbey’s Djeli-ya-Graph

Who bakes the Western industrial singing machine

Into temperatures of syncopated beyondness

Out Sharp Mean

Papa Jo’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 ain’t 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 cd

Shelly Manne, Chico Hamilton. Rashied knows, Billy Hart. Eddie Crawford

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 Pharoah or David

Or Dizzy, when he come out of hiding, it’s 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 message

From afar.

All Hail, MAX, from On to Dignataria to Serious and even beyond!

He is the mighty SCARAB, immortal as our music, world without end.

Great artist Universal Teacher, and for any Digger

One of our deepest friends! Hey, MAX! MAX! MAX!

-Amiri Baraka (Written in 1999, read at Max Roach’s funeral, Aug. 24, 2007)

Originally Published