Smithsonian Collections

Max Roach

Image for Max Roach
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
A seminal figure in postwar jazz, drummer Max Roach fueled the transition from swing to bebop by employing multiple rhythms to push beyond the boundaries of traditional 4/4 time. Roach worked with a string of jazz greats from the outset of his career. He served as the drummer on Dizzy Gillespie and Coleman Hawkins’s recording of “Woody ’n’ You” (1944) and was the percussionist on Charlie Parker’s landmark “Ko Ko” (1945). During the Birth of the Cool recording sessions (1949–50) he played cool bop with Miles Davis before partnering with trumpeter Clifford Brown in 1954 in the founding of free jazz. He went on to front his own bands and to experiment with multicultural fusion in collaborations with African and Asian musicians. Roach’s innovations were rooted in his impeccable control, virtuoso technique, and artistry. As a fellow musician observed, “because of him, drumming no longer was just time, it was music.”
Figura seminal del jazz de posguerra, el baterista Max Roach fue una fuerza motriz en la transición del swing al bebop, explorando diversidad de ritmos para rebasar los límites del tradicional compás 4/4. Roach colaboró con una larga lista de luminarias del jazz desde los comienzos de su carrera. Fue baterista de Dizzy Gillespie y Coleman Hawkins en su grabación “Woody ’n’ You” (1944) y percusionista de Charlie Parker en la icónica “Ko Ko” (1945). Tocó cool bop con Miles Davis en las diversas sesiones que conformaron la grabación Birth of the Cool (1949–50), y en 1954 colaboró con el trompetista Clifford Brown en la creación del free jazz. Luego dirigió sus propias bandas y exploró fusiones multiculturales en trabajos con músicos africanos y asiáticos. Las innovaciones de Roach siempre estuvieron ancladas en su impecable control, su técnica virtuosa y su gran musicalidad. Como bien dijo un colega suyo: “gracias a él, la batería dejó de ser mero tiempo para convertirse en música”.
Herman Leonard, 1923 - 2010
Max Roach, 10 Jan 1924 - 16 Aug 2007
1950 (printed 1998)
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
Image: 36.5 × 30.2cm (14 3/8 × 11 7/8")
Sheet: 50.4 × 40.5cm (19 13/16 × 15 15/16")
Frame: 71.8 × 56.5 × 3.8 cm (28 1/4 × 22 1/4 × 1 1/2")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Costume\Dress Accessory\Eyeglasses
Equipment\Sound Devices\Microphone
Equipment\Smoking Implements\Cigarette
Music\Musical instrument\Drum
Max Roach: Male
Max Roach: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician
Max Roach: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Composer
Max Roach: Education\Educator\Professor
Max Roach: Education\Educator\Teacher\Music
Max Roach: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Max Roach: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Drummer
United States\New York\Kings\New York
Restrictions & Rights
© Herman Leonard Photography LLC