Max Roach/Leon Parker
Max Roach knows that the beat is the backbone of jazz. For half a century, along with fellow bop godfathers Art Blakey and Roy Haynes, his rhythmic energy has propelled some of the genre's greatest names: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Anthony Braxton, and so on. The master drummer also composes for and leads numerous inventive groups, ranging from string quartets to the M'Boom percussion ensemble. Since the birth of black nationalism and the civil rights movement, Roach has also been politically vocal -- at times to his own detriment. His album of 1960 We Insist: Freedom Now Suite (initially reviled by the white jazz industry) still stands as a fine example of that rare hybrid: conscious message and great music.
Widely heralded as jazz's most exciting young drummer, Leon Parker is spiritual kin to Max Roach. The newcomer perhaps wisely de-emphasizes his politics on the fresh CD Belief. He pares down his kit to a mere kick, high-hat, cymbal, and snare, and brightens his arrangements with multiple (yet minimal) percussionists. As African polyrhythms dance around simple, tuneful melodies, Parker's music comes off as groovy, though subtle. This is the kind of beat most drummers usually miss.