With Max Roach and His Drums

SKF NOTE: What did it feel like, on July 15, 1981, standing with Max Roach next to his blonde Ludwig drum set in his home music room? I felt awe. Reverential respect and wonder.

Max said, “I’m playing a 22″ bass drum, 12″ and 13″ mounted toms, a 16″ floor tom, and a 14” [floor tom] which is a tunable floor tom with a Meazzi footpedal.”

I was sitting close to Max when I saw him in concerts in NY and Chicago clubs. But being within touching distance of his drums, with Max next to me, was a very different experience.

Yes, I wanted to sit at the drum set to know what that felt like; to look at Max Roach’s drum set from his perspective, notwithstanding Max was several inches taller than me.

Sitting behind them, what did Max’s drums and cymbals sound like? Was the tension on Max’s bass drum pedal loose or tight? Was playing the bass drum effortless or did it feel like a leg muscle toning machine?

Max never invited me to sit at or play his drum set. I never asked. Neither did he play his drums that day.

I wasn’t vain enough to want to sit at Max’s drums and try to impress him. It’s that I would have been fascinated to hear the sound of his drum set while seated behind them. That’s all.

Max Roach’s sound and style were a major influence on my playing and concept of drumming. To have the opportunity to interview him in his living room; and to then have him show me his drum set in his music room was heady stuff.

Forty years later it still feels that way.

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