Drummers “Babatunde Olatunji” (African) & Max Roach (Jazz)

I have combined performances of “Babatunde Olatunji” (April 7, 1927 – April 6, 2003) and Max Roach (1924–2007) for two reasons. Firstly, it’s often heard in Jazz circles that Max (Jazz) and “Babatunde” (African) are perhaps the “greatest percussionists” of all times. Secondly, in 1993, I attended Max Roach’s presentation of  “Freedom Suite” at Aaron Davis Hall, http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/07/arts/review-jazz-a-timeless-protest-updated.html, where at the close of that performance there was a commotion somewhere in the audience and piercing the air someone screamed hysterically “No one in America appreciates what I’ve done in bringing popularity of the African Drum to America.”(paraphrased). It was “Babatunde Olatunji”. So, in appreciation of their historical contributions to drumming, enjoy “Babatunde Olatunji” and Max Roach.

—Ronn

I am also including a performance of Max Roach and his ex-wife Abbey Lincoln. I met Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln in the late 1960s while I was working in customer service at JFK Airport. I recognized Abbey Lincoln while checking her in on a flight going west. She was accompanied by Max Roach. I greeted Abbey and before she walked away asked her for her autography. Just about the same time, a fellow customer service approached Max Roach, lauded him and then asked for his autograph. I suggested to the agent that he also get an autograph from Abbey” She’s a famous actress and singer.” The agent suggested that I get the autograph of Max Roach, “He’s the greatest Jazz drummer in the world.” Max Roach agreed. I replied “I don’t know who Max Roach is. I’ve never heard of him”. Max Roach said “OK, anyway you have the better part of the family’s autograph.” He turned and started walking toward the gates, but then turned and said “Are you sure you don’t want my autograph?” I said “Tell me who you are”. He looked at Abbey and they walked away laughing. (I didn’t know much about Jazz, then… . How times have changed.)—Ronn

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