As a drummer myself, I can attest to the difficulty of creating unique ways of rhythm within a song.
Max Roach’s style of drumming was visibly influenced by the style of Kenny Clarke, an early bebop drummer at Milton’s Playhouse. However, even though Clarke’s style was certainly innovative, Roach made a few changes to the method. Roach made bebop drumming more melodic and more polyrhythmic (Larson 133). In the 1940s, the jazz scene was changing in the wake of the War. Bebop had officially begun in New York, centered around Milton’s Playhouse, where Kenny Clarke was already playing when Max Roach began. Rather than keeping time with the bass drum, as was traditional at the time for swing drummers, Roach switched to time-keeping on the ride cymbal. This had the effect of making songs seem lighter and more propulsive. In addition, Roach freed his hands for more extravagant rhythms that ultimately defined his style as a bebop drummer (Mathieson 126-9).
During the 1940s, Roach played with a number of the most recognizable names in the bebop scene. Most notably, he played in the Parker/Gillespie quintet in 1944 and in the Parker/Davis quintet in 1947. This brought Roach the fame and recognition he deserved, keeping rhythms and times for world-renowned trumpeters. But even as conventional bebop declined in popularity coming into the 1950s, Roach co-led a quintet named after him and Clifford Brown, forming one of the most noteworthy hard bop groups of the decade, incorporating such names as Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt between 1953 and 1956 (Larson 133). Roach’s influence would live on in his recordings which still influence countless drummers to this day.
A more critical look at Roach’s biography reveals a number of interesting musical influences on his style. By 10, the young Roach was drumming in gospel bands, and, immediately after graduating from high school, he was already playing