Album of the Week: Members, Don’t Git Weary

Max Roach - Members, Don't Git Weary (1968)

Max Roach - Members, Don't Git Weary (Atlantic 1968)

Max Roach was one of the premier drummers of the bebop era and beyond. As well as playing on landmark sessions with jazz legends like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, he recorded several celebrated albums as a leader. In the words of fellow drummer Stan Levey, thanks to Max Roach “drumming no longer was just time, it was music.”

Although best known as a bebop player, Max Roach flirted with post-bop and the avant-garde. His 1968 album Members, Don’t Git Weary is one such flirtation. The ensemble consists of Gary Bartz (alto sax), Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Stanley Cowell (piano), Jymie Merritt (electric bass) and Roach himself (drums).

Despite the use of electric instruments, Members is far from a fusion album. However the electric bass does lend an edge of funk to opening track Abstrutions; a short ‘n’ groovy piece punctuated by angular brass fanfares, but grounded by that funky bass and Cowell’s bluesy rolling piano.

My favourite track Libra takes us further out. During the main theme, the rhythm and horn sections appear to be playing in separate time signatures. The effect is equally compelling and unsettling, the divided ensemble conjuring complex and stimulating syncopations. The group eventually joins forces to provide a propulsive backing for solos by Bartz and Tolliver. Roach then blasts a furious drum solo before the group restates the theme to close.

Title track Members, Don’t Git Weary features a gospel-inspired vocal performance by Andy Bey, and is an uplifting call for strength and unity in the society of the time. When you consider the album was recorded soon after Martin Luther King was killed, it becomes all the more potent. Other tracks include Effi; a dreamy waltz which is oddly reminiscent of The Stranglers hit Golden Brown, Equipoise; a gentle modal piece with especially lyrical playing from Charles Tolliver, and Absolutions; the closing track to which Cowell’s electric piano and Merritt’s mantra-like bassline give an exotic quality.

I only bought the album yesterday, and have listened to it several times both for enjoyment and reviewing purposes, and could happily listen to it again tomorrow. Critics and experts may not see it as an essential album, but I couldn’t recommend it more highly. I won’t git weary (a-ho-ho-ho) of it any time soon.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: