NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drummer Max Roach, who helped revolutionize jazz by creating the fast-paced bebop style along with players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, has died at age 83, Blue Note Records said on Thursday,
Blue Note did not give a cause of death for Roach, who died in his sleep in New York on Wednesday.
Roach secured his spot in the jazz pantheon by redefining the role of jazz drums during the rise of bebop in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Before bebop, jazz was primarily swing music played in dance halls, and drummers served to keep time for the band, Blue Note spokesman Cem Kurosman said.
Roach changed that by shifting the time-keeping function to the cymbal, allowing the drums to play a more expressive and important role and, in the process, contributing to the shift of jazz from popular dance music to an art form that fans appreciated sitting in clubs, Kurosman said.
Roach also was a civil rights activist who brought politics into his art. In 1960 he created “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” a seven-part suite featuring vocalist Abbey Lincoln that addressed slavery and racism in America.
The quintet he co-founded with Clifford Brown in 1954 is considered one of the classic ensembles in jazz. After Brown’s death in a car crash with bandmate Richie Powell in 1956, Roach led his own bands that included a who’s who of jazz as associates. He also recorded with his daughter Maxine, a jazz violinist.
Roach played on many of bebop’s seminal recordings, accompanying Parker, Gillespie, Miles Davis and pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.