Together again–sort of: Roach and Rollins are appearing on the same stage, just not on the same night. But the decision to book these two old friends and jazz soul mates on the same weekend involves a neat conceit spun from one of the music’s great encounters. By the early 50s, Max Roach was already just shy of jazz legendry, having emerged as the preeminent bebop drummer when that idiom was still under construction; when he joined forces with Clifford Brown, a gifted and prodigal trumpeter (sort of the Wynton Marsalis of his day), their quintet quickly became the sine qua non of the hard-bop era; and when an intense, agile, and diamond-tough improviser named Sonny Rollins signed on in 1954, the Brown-Roach Quintet catapulted to another level altogether. Brown’s death in 1955, in a car accident that also claimed the band’s pianist (and involved no controlled substances), abruptly closed that chapter in the fives of Roach and Rollins, who have built quite different careers. Roach has maintained and polished his style of drumming but has engaged in a wide variety of formats, including the double quartet–with trumpet, sax, bass, and four strings–he’s bringing to Chicago; Rollins, on the other hand, has drastically altered his always unique instrumental voice while working almost exclusively in small-combo settings. But each is still among the most exciting and dynamic performers in jazz, combining the vitality of now with the lambent lure of history. Tonight (Roach) and Saturday (Rollins), 8 PM, Illinois Room, Chicago Circle Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, 750 S. Halsted; 431-5070.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Lindner.