A Bed-Stuy corner is renamed in honor of jazz pioneer Max Roach

The late Max Roach, a Brooklyn-raised jazz musician, composer and Civil Rights activist, was honored this week at a street-naming ceremony at an intersection near where he grew up.

One of the most important and influential drummers in jazz history, Roach was born Maxwell Lemuel Roach in North Carolina in January of 1924. The Roach family moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant where he was on the forefront of the then-burgeoning jazz scene. According to his son’s Facebook page, Roach grew up at 541 Green Avenue —  near where where the newly re-named “Max Roach Way” intersection is located.

Following his graduation from Boys High School in Bed-Stuy, Roach got his first professional gig with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at just 18. His son credits his Brooklyn upbringing for molding into him one of the icons of jazz.

“The rich musical heritage of Bedford-Stuyvesant was a fertile ground for Roach,” Raoul Roach wrote, noting that he learned from other Brooklyn greats including pianist Randy Weston and saxophonist Cecil Payne. He said that his father’s “musical journey was deeply intertwined with the community,” notably co-founding Brooklyn-based Debut Records, marking the first musician-owned record label that “played a pivotal role in the advancement of jazz.”

Over the course of his decades-long career, Roach worked with (and led) an astonishing array of genre-defining musicians, including Clifford Brown, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, his wife Abbey Lincoln, Dinah Washington, Charles Mingus, Billy Eckstine, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy and Booker Little, to name just a few.

The rechristening of the intersection as “Max Roach Way” in his centennial year is a “testament to the enduring impact of Roach’s contributions to music and culture,” his son wrote. “His street co-naming honors not only his extraordinary talent and achievements but also his deep roots in the Brooklyn community.”

At Wednesday’s ceremony honoring Roach, who died in 2007, Mayor Eric Adams called the musican a “doctor” because “because music can heal, and there’s so much hate out there that can divide us, he had the power to reconnect us.”

“In a career that spans many decades and touched countless lives, Max Roach set himself apart as one of Brooklyn’s greats,” said New York City Council Member Chi Ossé at the ceremony. “Our community, our culture, our city, and our music all wear his mark and carry his legacy.”

His family is planning events in August, which would have been his 100th birthday, to honor Roach’s legacy and his impact on jazz, according to WABC-TV.

The post A Bed-Stuy corner is renamed in honor of jazz pioneer Max Roach appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.

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