MAX ROACH — The Max Roach Trio featuring the Legendary Hasaan (review)

MAX ROACH — The Max Roach Trio featuring the Legendary Hasaan album cover Album · 1965 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
One of the most innovative and interesting piano players in jazz history, Hasaan Ibn Ali, was almost never recorded, but fortunately Max Roach put pressure on Atlantic records to record the guy and Atlantic finally relented under the stipulation that the album featuring Hasaan be released under Max’s name, hence the album, “The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan’ came to pass. After the release of this album there was enough interest in Hasaan to have him come record some more, but unfortunately incarceration over drugs got in the way and his recordings were shelved and presumed lost. Fortunately some of those recordings have been dug up and released, so now there are a few more recordings under the Hasaan name, but without this one Roach album, everything would have probably been forgotten.

All of the song’s on ‘Max Roach Featuring Hasaan’ are Hasaan’s compositions, and they reveal his very personal take on what jazz could be. It is an avant-garde album for its time, but it is far from free jazz. Hasaan lays out what he wants from his musicians, and Roach and bassist Art Davis are creative enough to pick up on his vision. A casual listen might reveal a rather dissonant hard bop album, but closer listens show that the rhythmic concepts of this album were way ahead of their time. The musicians seem to hold a pulse together, but it is constantly morphing and changing every couple of bars. The musicians seem to be almost independent of each other, yet they manage to keep it all together somehow.

Tonally, Hasaan is often compared to a cross between Monk and Cecil Taylor, more or less a very dissonant hard bopper. He was also heavily influenced by outside bebopper Elmo Hope and can sometimes recall Herbie Nichols, Jaki Byard and maybe some of Mal Waldron’s more outside excursions. Throughout the album, harsh atonal tone clusters can come slamming down followed by scattered skittish rapid flurries of single notes tempered with unpredictable rhythmic variations. Since Hasaan’s music sounds right at home in the 21st century, you could also reference Matthew Shipp and Jason Moran as pianists who cover somewhat similar ground. This is one of those albums you can listen to over and over again and always find something new.
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