Roach starts things off on Paris 1989, rolling across his immaculately tuned drums with the finesse that's so characteristic of his playing. Cymbals are added, and the total effect is that of a drum choir embodied by one man. Max's playing is so tightly eloquent throughout this recording, it's just wonderful to listen to. He goes from straight linear rhythmic beats to free pulsing to wild flailing, and that's pretty much within the first five minutes of disc opener In The Beginning. Anyone interested in Jazz drumming absolutely must listen to Max Roach; in multiple interviews he would state that his style was based upon the earlier masters such as Baby Dodds and Sid Catlet. That said, Roach developed an incredibly unique and somewhat more complex approach than his esteemed predecessors, one that remains highly innovative. It's a high, high standard. Across the 90 or so minutes of duo exchange with Gillespie, Max leads the way, changing up the rhythms when he needs to, taking the lead or being supportive when either of those are needed. His moves from sticks to mallets to brushes offer fascinating tonal variation from his kit as he makes these moves.
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie will obviously be remembered as one of the key 20th Century artists. Much like Roach, he built upon the earlier innovations of Jazz, spearheading his own innovations into the Bop movement, from which he bounced into a lifetime of Jazz touring and ambassadorship. The playing of this then 71 year old man on Paris 1989 sounds fresh, strong, and clear. Disaster Amnesiac hears him quoting from Copeland, hears him get chillingly intimate and boldly brassy, hears complicated multi-note runs and simple Blues phrases. I've marveled at his control of the trumpet: Diz does it all with Mastery. One thing that Disaster Amnesiac has ruminated upon while listening to these two discs is the relatively simple design of the trumpet, and the way in which Gillespie extends and elaborates this simplicity into such sublime sounds. Additionally, when he scat sings on Salt Peanuts and Oo Pa Pa Da, a world of absolute joy opens up.
Taken together, Roach and Gillespie play with such great simpatico on Paris 1989. Reunited after four decades of being apart, the duo share leads and supports. One can tell that a lot of active listening is being done as they trade phrases within the tunes, as comments fly back and forth between drummer and trumpeter. The vibes are heavily weighted with their decades of experience. It's the sound of Masters conversing upon their craft. Where Max goes, Dizzy follows, and vice versa. Signals are sent and responded to. Lines are traded, mused upon, and then exited, often with Roach opening up new opportunities with great, rolling fills on his tom toms. So much action going on there! Although it sometimes seems as though Gillespie is content to lay out and let his dear friend wail, when he does step up, the sounds are always perfectly placed, always spot on. Although mostly improvised, Paris 1989 has the feel of a fully formed, thought out musical composition.
In the liner note for Paris 1989, Gillespie states something along the lines of "...this recording will go down in the history of recorded Jazz as one of its greatest...". Not many could get away with such a statement, but Disaster Amnesiac, and surely others, would have to agree. It's an essential document from two titans of one of the best developments of the otherwise absolutely violent and often criminal 20th Century. Close to thirty years since its release, and close to 100 years since Roach and Gillespie began their respective epic runs, it holds up quite nicely. Dig in and LEARN.