One of the architects of bebop in the 1940s, Max Roach continued to lead innovative and exemplary jazz groups into the 21st century. He cut his first discs with Coleman Hawkins in 1943, and soon afterwards worked with Dizzy Gillespie both on 52nd Street and on record.
In 1945 he began working with Charlie Parker, and was a member of Parker's great quintet with Miles Davis in 1947-9. After playing occasional further sessions with both Parker and Davis, in the 1950s he co-led a band with another great trumpeter, Clifford Brown - a famous quintet that came to an abrupt end with Brown and pianist Richie Powell's death in a car crash in 1956.
Roach continued working, and his groups took on a strong political flavour from the late 1950s to the 1970s. His 1960s Freedom Now Suite is a good example of this phase in his work, with startling vocals from his then wife Abbey Lincoln. He worked with just about every big name in modern jazz in the 60s, 70s and 80s, in combinations from large bands to duos.
Some of his duo performances are masterpieces of improvisation, notably his 1989 Paris collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie and a long-lived partnership with pianist Cecil Taylor both on record and in a series of occasional concerts. In the 1980s Roach formed a regular group which included Odean Pope on saxophones and Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet,. In addition he worked in an amazing variety of contexts from all star jazz groups to the Beijing Trio, which explored Asian-American links.