Max Roach

In the Light

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    8
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Max Roach was in the midst of establishing a small group sound with just tenor sax and trumpet on the frontline, and this recording firmly cements this approach. It's stripped down, but lacking no amount of power or verve, in fact the drummer seems rather inspired during this time period. Thankfully the Italian Soul Note/Black Saint labels documented this music, where companies in the U.S. turned away from it. You hear newly arranged bop standards for the most part, well played by all, while fresh voices in the form of trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and saxophonist Odean Pope sound far removed from the players Roach teamed with in the '50s and '60s. "Henry Street Blues" is a standout for its playfulness, and the trading of phrases between the drummer and his bandmates, while bassist Calvin Hill is solid as a rock throughout. The title track is a piece that deviates from the rest of the set, and leans more heavily toward the creative improvised aspect of jazz. This is one of a series of excellent recordings by the Roach 4tet in the early '80s that should be examined as not only excellent works, but perhaps even trend setters for a more progressive concept.

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