1958's MAX shows Max Roach at the top of his game. A decade earlier, Roach had absorbed Kenny Clarke's drumming style and, with trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown, forged his own brand of bebop. By 1958, on his way to becoming a true jazz elder, Roach began pushing the boundaries of jazz even further.
The quintet heard here served as Roach's musical springboard after Brown's untimely death in 1956. MAX is a "comeback" album of sorts. Kenny Dorham steps in to fill Brown's shoes and does so with great panache. Hank Mobley's fine tenor playing is also spotlighted. Highlights include the fast and furious Dorham original "Speculate" and the lush ballad "That Ole Devil Love." On the former, Roach takes an absolutely blazing drum solo-which ends curiously with the sound of a tape splice. The performances on this track alone prove that Roach's band was the equal of any hard-bop group in the world.