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We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite

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Max Roach’s ambitious We Insist! appeared in 1960, just as the civil rights movement was entering its crucial phase. The album’s mixture of modern jazz, African rhythms and sparse but powerful lyrics (contributed to Oscar Brown Jr.) still has the ability to unsettle and inspire. Its compositions take a critical view of American history from the slavery era onwards, broadening into a larger cry for justice on the African continent. Singer Abbey Lincoln’s performances are remarkable for their emotional resonance and visceral impact, taking her leagues beyond the nightclub stylings of her earlier recorded work. Backed by a top-flight ensemble (including the legendary saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and trumpeter Booker Little), she ascends from the rueful work-chant “Driva’man” into the restless, bebop-tinged “Freedom Day.” Driven by Roach’s ruminative drumming, she makes “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” into an act of catharsis with her violent wails and serene murmurs, and the mesmerizing tribal percussion of “All Africa” leads into the bracing, multi-textured explorations of “Tears for Johannesburg.”

Biography

Born: 10 January 1924 in New Land, NC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In a profession star-crossed by early deaths -- especially the bebop division -- Max Roach was long a shining survivor, one of the last giants from the birth of bebop. He and Kenny Clarke instigated a revolution in jazz drumming that persisted for decades; instead of the swing approach of spelling out the pulse with the bass drum, Roach shifted the emphasis to the ride cymbal. The result was a lighter, far more flexible texture, giving drummers more freedom to explore the possibilities of their drum...
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