Celebration set for 100th birthday of legendary jazz drummer Max Roach

Published 4:17 pm Saturday, January 6, 2024

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The story of Max Roach as one of the most important drummers in jazz history is well documented and exists on many cultural levels, yet few are aware of his rural northeastern North Carolina beginnings. Born in Pasquotank County in 1924, the family moved to New York City when he was four years old. Roach began playing drums at school, his father bought him a drum kit because of his dedication. He played gospel music in church and played with Duke Ellington’s band at age eighteen. Roach played with many jazz musicians during the 1950s and 1960s. He was an innovative drummer and a composer who helped develop bebop jazz.

Throughout his life, Roach supported the civil rights movement and international struggles for independence. He composed the album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite with jazz singer and future wife Abbey Lincoln. In 1972 he was one of the first jazz musicians to teach as a professor at the University of Massachusetts. Roach continued to make music until his death in 2007 at the age of 83.

A small lobby display on the life of Max Roach will be on display at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City from January 10, 2024 until February 3, 2024.

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Celebrate the 100th birthday of Pasquotank County native Max Roach, the master percussionist whose rhythmic innovations defined bebop jazz on Wednesday evening, January 10 at 6 p.m.

Douglas Jackson, professor of music at Elizabeth City State University, will make remarks on the life and accomplishments of Max Roach. Pasquotank County native Thomas Taylor, North Carolina Central University assistant professor of percussion, and accompanying musicians will provide live music honoring Roach.

The City of Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County Commission will issue an official proclamation designating January 10th as Max Roach Day in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County.