Roach Does The Deed
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 03/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the tragic deaths of Clifford Brown and pianist Richie Powell in 1956, Max Roach's first great quintet literally lost two of its members. Kenny Dorham and Ray Bryant would replace Brown and Powell and Max's new group was called the Max Roach Plus Four, and it featured the tenor saxophone talents of none other than Sonny Rollins. By 1958 it proved too difficult to keep a band with this many individual stars together, and Roach founded a new quintet, featuring George Coleman on tenor sax and another young, immensely gifted trumpeter (who himself would die tragically in few short years) named Booker Little. This group made excellent recordings for Mercury (recently collected with other sessions as "The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions on the Mosaic label), and this title "Deeds, Not Words" for Riverside. This album is a classic, solid hard bop affair led by Raoch's driving stick work, and surprisingly by Ray Draper's robust tuba! Not that Little, Coleman and bassist Art Davis (he is replaced on one track by Oscar Pettiford) aren't in great form too, because they are indeed. You can take my word that "Deeds, Not Words" is a great disc, or better yet you can do the deed yourself. Go out and buy it!"
Start of a major partnership
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 04/09/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not sure why this album's on Riverside--Roach was recording for Mercury at the time--but it's a welcome example from the earliest years of one of the major partnerships in Roach's career, with the ill-fated trumpeter Booker Little, only 20 years old at the time of recording. It dates from 1958, & the rest of the band is also very young: George Coleman on tenor, Ray Draper on tuba (only 17!), & Art Davis on bass.The material on the album is very challenging, though rather period-bound in feel. There are a few standards--a bizarrely complicated arrangement of "You Stepped Out of a Dream" & a very fast "It's You or No One"--& a set of ambitious originals. Ray Draper's "Filide" is probably the weakest thing here--he's really not much of a soloist (resorting over & over again to the same repeated three-note lick), & so his feature is a bit flat; the other horns solo interestingly, but I do notice that Art Davis seems to be having increasing trouble during their solos, perhaps because Roach's off-kilter drumming & Little's unusual phrasing & accentuation leave him a bit at sea. There are two tunes by the Chicago bassist Bill Lee (I presume the father of Spike Lee, the director), "Jodie's Cha-Cha" (I'm guessing it to be a tribute to the Chicago pianist Jodie Christian) & the lovely ballad "Deeds, Not Words". Little contributes "Larry-Larue". All three tunes are "advanced" in a peculiarly late-1950s manner, with tangled melodies harmonized dissonantly over endless series of ii-Vs connected in oblique ways. -- Coleman is as always consummately in control, & Little demonstrates his inventiveness, speed, range, & unique tone & pitching (a good example of the last is the statement of the melody on "It's You or No One"). His music always sounds odd & intriguing to me for its combination of high-note melodic brio & exceedingly melancholic tone. Roach thumps the band along with enthusiasm & a bouncy threshing-machine vigour--perhaps a little excessively so. Roach ends the album with "Conversation", despite the title a solo drum spot; the CD also has a makeweight of a duet with Oscar Pettiford on "There Will Never Be Another You" which was recorded during a lull at the sessions for Rollins' _Freedom Suite_--can't say it does much for me.I'm perhaps idiosyncratic--this is a disc singled out for praise in Cook & Morton's Penguin Guide for instance & I've often seen it named as one of Roach's best albums as a leader--but I'm not a huge fan of this disc. Listening to it side by side with other discs like Little's later _Out Front_ (which also has Roach & Davis) I think this one is good but not quite there yet. Little is certainly the key player here--Coleman never has really done all that much for me, & Draper really only works as a third voice in ensembles--but Little still, even in his foreshortened career, was to grow beyond this stage & also to establish a more balanced rapport with Roach. He was also to grow as a composer & arranger--"Larry-Larue" & the compositions on _Booker Little 4 + Max Roach_ (recorded just weeks after this session) do not compare with the brilliant work on the Five Spot date, _Out Front_ & _Victory & Sorrow_."
William Jones | Rockville, MD USA | 10/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the best hard bop albums from one of the best hard bop drummers...the title says it all...Max Roach has always let the music do the talking...this album shows it."