On the basis of his persistence, adaptability and symbolic importance Max Roach would merit inclusion in jazz's pantheon of special performers. But he did more than outlive many of his contemporaries; he, along with Kenny Clarke, changed the direction of drummers in the bop revolution. He shifted the rhythmic focus from the bass drum to the ride cymbal, a move that gave drummers more freedom. He emerged as arguably bebop's greatest drum soloist. Roach didn't simply drop bombs and blast away. He told a complete story, varying his pitch, tuning, patterns, and volume. He was a brillant brush player, and could push, redirect, or break up the beat. Roach never stood still musically, though the links between what he played in the '40s and the '90s aren't that far apart. He worked with pianoless trios, played with symphony orchestras, did duos with free and avant-garde musicians, backed gospel choirs, even played with a rapper long before the jazz/hip-hop thing became a media event. He was outspoken about social injustices in the pre-civil rights era, and recorded powerful, undiluted protest material. His mother sang gospel, and Roach began playing drums in gospel bands at 10. He had formal studies at the Manhattan School of Music, then started playing with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and others at Minton's Playhouse in 1942. He was house drummer and a frequent participant in after-hours jam sessions. One of the other participants was Kenny Clarke. Roach had brief stints with Benny Carter and Duke Ellington's band, then joined Gillespie's quintet in 1943 and was in Parker-led bands in 1945, 1947 to 1949, and 1951 to 1953. He made his recording debut with Coleman Hawkins in 1943, then recorded with Miles Davis and Parker in the late '40s. Roach traveled to Paris with Parker in 1949, and recorded there with him and others including Kenny Dorham. He also played with Louis Jordan, Red Allen and Coleman Hawkins, and participated in the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1948-1950. During the early '50s, Roach toured with The Jazz At The Philharmonic revue, played at Massey Hall in an all-star concert with Parker, Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Bud Powell and recorded with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars. During the mid-'50s, he co-lead the Max Roach/Clifford Brown orchestra, with Powell's brother Richie on piano and saxophonists Harold Land and Sonny Rollins. His frenetic, yet precise drumming laid the foundation for Brown's amazing trumpet solos. This group made some landmark records in its short tenure, among them Study In Brown and At Basin Street. After Brown and Powell were tragically killed in a car crash in 1956, Roach tried to keep the group going using Dorham and Rollins. He became involved in a record label partnership with Charles Mingus as well, forming Debut Records in the mid-'50s. Later Roach led another influential band, this time with trumpeters Dorham or Booker Little, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, trombonist Julian Priester and sometimes Ray Draper on tuba. They cut seminal dates for Riverside and Emarcy, among them On The Chicago Scene, and Deeds Not Words. The Max Roach +4 became a prototype hard bop unit. Then Roach made another change during the early '60s, composing multi-faceted suites, and writing openly political, confrontational material featuring his wife Abbey Lincoln criticizing American racial injustices. He dispensed with the piano on occasion, and experimented with solo drum compositions as wholly independent pieces. There were more albums for Atlantic and Impulse. The list included Freedom Now Suite, Percussion Bitter Sweet, It's Time, Speak, Brother, Speak. The Legendary Hassan, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and Members, Don't Get Weary. There was also the brillant Drums Unlimited, in 1965. The Freedom Now Suite was made into a film by Gianni Amici in 1966, but Roach and Lincoln maintain they suffered severe career reprisals as a result. During the '70s Roach continued recording prolifically for various labels, though most were for import companies like Denon and Soul Note. Roach founded M'Boom Re: Percussion in 1970, a co-operative group of 10 percussionists performing works written for them. The group was still recording and performing in th 1990s. He recorded with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, and Abdullah Ibrahim, while maintaining his own bands. Roach also began a career in education, becoming a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and later holding a position at the Lennox School of Jazz. He continued in the '80s and '90s, leading at various times a regular quartet, Double Quartet (an acoustic and string quartet together) and M-Boom, while continuing to lecture, perform and exemplify the real meaning of jazz.