Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach (January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007) was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer. A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history.
Max was raised in Brooklyn and studied at the Manhattan School of Music. Growing up in New York City exposed Roach to an exuberant jazz scene. In 1940, 16-year-old Roach filled in with Duke Ellington's orchestra. During the 1940s, he played with jazz greats like Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Benny Carter and Stan Getz, Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown. Roach further developed his skills by studying at the Manhattan School of Music. Roach was also a composer and a professor of music at the University of Massachusetts. He died in New York City in 2007.
In 1954, Roach and Clifford Brown formed a quintet that became one of the most highly regarded groups in modern jazz. Unfortunately, their collaboration ended when Brown and another member of the group were killed in a 1956 car accident. The loss was a depressing blow for Roach; he began drinking heavily, but eventually sought professional help to regain his footing. He also continued creating music, taking on projects with Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins.
Roach also led his own groups, and made numerous musical statements relating to the Civil Rights Movement.