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Max Roach/Abdullah Ibrahim: Streams of Consciousness

Max Roach with Abdullah Ibrahim

Few figures in jazz have more effectively made a case for the melodic aspect of percussion than Max Roach. As one of the progenitors of bebop drumming, he favored a style of playing that often traced the contours of a song. Just as remarkably, Roach dove more or less headfirst into free improvisation during the ’70s, erecting compositional structures where there was previously shapelessness. Streams of Consciousness (Piadrum), a 1977 tete-a-tete with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, fits comfortably in both the melodic and freeform categories of Roach’s canon.

Strains of gospel, blues and swing weave throughout the canvas of these duo improvisations, along with percussive interludes imported from the African continent (where Ibrahim, then known as Dollar Brand, spent his youth). In fact, black music serves both as an animating principle and a framework for Streams, giving shape to an otherwise open-ended dialogue. The ease with which Roach and Ibrahim speak this language is evident; their clear rapport signals both a shared grasp of jazz’s origins and a shared commitment to the cause of freedom. Tellingly, the album begins and ends on the same ascending gospel tremolo, implying eternity and a journey come full circle.

Originally Published