Maxwell Lemuel Roach is a percussionist, drummer, and
jazz composer. He has worked with many of the greatest
jazz musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker,
Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins. He is
widely considered to be one of the most important
drummers in the history of jazz.
Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina, to Alphonse
and Cressie Roach; his family moved to Brooklyn, New
York when he was 4 years old. He grew up in a musical
context, his mother being a gospel singer, and he started to
play bugle in parade orchestras at a young age. At the age
of 10, he was already playing drums in some gospel bands.
He performed his first big-time gig in New York City at the
age of sixteen, substituting for Sonny Greer in a
performance with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
In 1942, Roach started to go out in the jazz clubs of the
52nd Street and at 78th Street & Broadway for Georgie
Jay's Taproom (playing with schoolmate Cecil Payne)