|Max Roach is one of jazz's greatest musicians. A tremendous percussionist (not just a drummer), he has spanned bebop, New Thing, Free Jazz and every movement in between without missing a beat (pun intended). On this mid-80s release, he is joined by three brilliant musicians (trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, saxophonist Odean Pope and bassist Tyrone Brown), all of whom take full advantage of their time with a master craftsman.
The release is an extended composition in two parts by Bridgewater. While the pieces were clearly created to give the musicians plenty of freedom to improvise, the two sections are by no means unstructured. Rather, Bridgewater builds the piece around musical figures that each musician uses to craft his own highly personal statement within a block of time. And of course Roach holds all the pieces together, juggling rhythms, creating timbres, and tapping out percussive melodies all his own.
Bridgewater delivers two highly satisfying solos, one in each part of the suite. He delivers a stabbing, fragmented attack on trumpet, and for me makes every fragment sound like a firmly stated declaration. Odean Pope shows why he is one of the great saxophonists out there, even though he doesn't get much publicity. If you need proof of his power, check out Part II, where he delivers an unaccompanied tenor solo that is chilling in its purity. Tyrone Brown unleashes more than a dollop of funk when he solos. His technique is incredible, but he does not sacrifice a shred of passion.
Soul Note put out a slew of fine, if underappreciated albums. Don't miss this one if you're a fan of Max Roach or if you are looking for jazz in its purest form, played by musicians who are in it for the long haul.