My preferred music listening styles tend to fluctuate and move in waves. During the holidays, I lean heavily on jazz. There is just something about the feeling of jazz music, cold weather, wine, and holiday get-togethers. I have nothing against Christmas music, but when Baby its cold out is played four times inside of an hour, my brain wants to implode. When intermediate jazz fans think of the greats, people like Davis, Coltrane, Peterson, Dizzy, Monk, and Armstrong come to mind. There is one man that has played with them all and not your typical front man, drummer Max Roach.
I only own one Mac Roach vinyl, a Riverside Records release called Deeds, Not Words from 1958. Max had released dozens of records over his decades and appeared as a guest on dozens more. With only one of his original songs on this vinyl, you would be shocked to learn he didn’t write them all. His style was unique. Roach is the only person I’ve ever heard that can make a drum set sit back and hold up the quintet, or seemingly take his rhythm and almost play them with a melody. Born in 1924, Roach was hailed as the “Pioneer of Bebop” music. Bebop is characterized by a fast tempo, improvisational expertise, and harmonic structure. It is a style of music when played without a great drummer, is unpleasing to the ear. Roach was able to provide a backbone to the style of music he was best known for. When watching Roach play, you could note the limited movement and obvious lightness of his playing, but the beats that rumbled out were aggressive and persuasive. When I am at the crest of the music wave, I listen to jazz vinyl records, and Deeds, Not Words by Max Roach is always in the cue.
Being the winter time, red wine is usually what I am sipping. Maybe times I would have started with a glass of white, but red carries me through the evening. Roach’s bebop style takes hard tempo twists and turns. The horn improvisation almost sounds stressed and angry, but can soften to dramatic suspenseful melodies. It is a vinyl that can keep your blood racing and heart rate up, which just won’t do with light wines. I tend to open bottles on the heavier side of the red spectrum. It is rare I have a Petit Verdot in the cellar, but when I do, it makes a perfect pairing for this vinyl. Petit Verdot is best known for its added backbone in left bank Bordeaux wines. It is usually added in small amount upwards of 1-3% only. Petit Verdot has a big tannic structure and is a very dark color of plum or purple. In years when the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec aren’t quite balancing out the quintet of grapes, it is Petit Verdots time to shine in Bordeaux. It is a fairly difficult grape to grow and recently been falling out of favor in Bordeaux, but it has been on the rise in other countries around the world with soils it is better suited to. Australia, California, and Virginia have had great success with Petit Verdot. One of my personal favorites, and easier one to find, is Pirramimma Petit Verdot from McLaren Vale, Australia. It is inky black in color, rich, and ripe. I have always felt something special towards this bottle because it is a wine that has a mouth-feel like I have never tasted before. When it coats the mouth, lingers all over, not just on my tongue and cheeks. I liken this wine to Max Roach because it plays such an important role with a group, but can stand alone as a front man on stage. It is a hard working grape and rarely recognized. It is a perfect pairing with Max Roach. Unfortunately, Roach died in 2007, but he left us many recordings and Deeds, Not Words.