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The drummer Charlie Watts called "incredible"


Charlie Watts is up there with the likes of John Bonham, Keith Moon and Ringo Starr as one of the most important British rock drummers of the 1960s. Unassuming by nature but ferociously talented, he provided the famously frenzied Rolling Stones with a solid backbone, around which the likes of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could twist and churn to their hearts delight.

Drumming was Watts’ life and remains an essential part of his legacy. Here, he praises one of the drummers he himself was inspired by. Although not the most widely known drummer, Max Roach was an essential link between the heyday of trad jazz and the blossoming era of British R&B. While few rock fans are familiar with Roach, he is something of a household name in the world of jazz, having played with the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, to name just a few.

During a conversation with Modern Drummer, Watts opened up about his affection for Roach: “I saw him at Carnegie Hall with his band and McCoy Tyner’s band. Max plays nothing like I thought he played. He’s incredible. He started up with this waltz thing which is quite incredible to watch. It was all ‘time’. It was lovely. Sort of a variation on ‘The Drum Also Waltzes.'” The Rolling Stones drummer went on to add:: “He just starts off playing ‘boom dit, boom dit.’ And he builds that up. Quite brilliant. To watch him play with a band is fantastic. The band with Clifford Brown was amazing.”

Roach may well have been one of the most influential drummer-percussionists of the 20th century. With groups like The Duke Ellington Orchestra and The Miles Davis Quintet – with whom he participated in sessions that later found their way onto the epoch-defining The Birth of The Cool – Roach redefined the way musicians approached the drum as an instrument. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, he played with everyone from Benny Carter, Stan Getz, Allen Eager and Sonny Rollins to Anthony Braxton, Abdullah Ibrahim and Archie Shepp.

Remarkably, the drummer’s pursuit of new and untapped musical territory even saw him perform alongside rappers and at book readings. He was also lauded for his inclusion of improvising string players in the Max Roch Double Quartet. All the while, he was working on compositions for plays, films and dance pieces. He was, without a shadow of a doubt, a master of his trade.