Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Max Roach-Percussion Bitter Sweet
Artist: Max Roach
Album: Percussion Bitter Sweet
Max Roach's 1961 album Percussion Bitter Sweet is not only his personal masterpiece, but a landmark jazz record that is often missed when discussing the greatest albums of its time/its genre. It's daring, engaging, and moving in ways that still, nearly FIFTY years later, are ahead of its time. Enough good things truly cannot be said about this album.
I am no jazz aficionado or expert, but I do know that the 1960s were a time of massive transformation for jazz. Constant releases from Blue Note that began in the 1950s took on a hard and post-bop feel. The innovations of the 1940s by the likes of Parker and Gillespie were being utilized in full force by the next generation immediately after...the guys that earned their chops playing with the aforementioned. And while the early part of the 1960s were a time of significant change in jazz, much more massive transformations would come in the later part of the decade, with the incorporation of funk into the genre and the development of fusion. What I am trying to say, then, is that the 1960s saw HUGE transformation in the jazz world.
It's still so dizzying that this album came out in 1961. That's eight years before Bitches Brew, four before Ascension, and fourteen before Headhunters. So much of the development of jazz over the course of history had to do with black power, and in the later '60s, this was explored more explicitly than ever before. But with this album and its predecessor, 1960's We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, Roach was very outspoken in a time of great turmoil with civil rights.
I've yet to mention anything about the music, so I should do that, I suppose. The album opens with a fucking explosion and Abbey Lincoln's. superb vocals, which return in "Mendacity." Not only is Roach's drumming spot on, but playing by the likes of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little also aide in the triumphantness of the album.
The melody's soar all over this album, and the playing is superb. Max Roach was always an innovator and on Percussion Bitter Sweet everything turns out perfect.