|Studio album by Max Roach|
|Recorded||August 31 and September 6, 1960
Nola Penthouse Sound Studio, New York City
|Max Roach chronology|
We Insist! (subtitled Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite) is a jazz album released on Candid Records in 1960. It contains a suite which composer and drummer Max Roach and lyricist Oscar Brown had begun to develop in 1959, with a view to its performance in 1963 on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. The cover references the sit-in movement of the Civil Rights Movement. The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded the album one of its rare crown accolades, in addition to featuring it as part of its Core Collection.
The music consists of five selections concerning the Emancipation Proclamation and the growing African independence movements of the 1950s. Only Roach and vocalist Abbey Lincoln perform on all five tracks, and one track features a guest appearance by saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.
We Insist! is an avant-garde jazz album and a vocal-instrumental suite on civil rights themes. It incorporates aspects of avant-garde trends during the 1960s, including the use of a pianoless ensemble, screaming vocals on "Protest", and moments of collective improvisation, such as at the end of "Tears from Johannesburg". Max Roach collaborated with lyricist Oscar Brown Jr. on the album and wrote songs that played variations on the theme of the struggle for African Americans to achieve equality in the United States. Abbey Lincoln, a frequent collaborator and subsequent wife of Roach's, performed vocals on the album. While Brown's lyrics were verbal, Lincoln sang worldess vocals on her parts.
Reception and legacy
Released in 1960 by Candid Records, We Insist! was not a commercial success and received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics. Many praised the album's ambitious concept, but some critics found it to be too controversial. Nonetheless, Roach vowed after its release that he would never again play music that is not socially relevant and told Down Beat magazine, "We American jazz musicians of African descent have proved beyond all doubt that we’re master musicians of our instruments. Now what we have to do is employ our skill to tell the dramatic story of our people and what we’ve been through." The album inspired Roach to broaden his scope as a composer and collaborate with choreographers, filmmakers, and Off-Broadway playwrights on projects such as a stage version of We Insist!.
With the album, Roach was among the first artists to use jazz as a way of addressing racial and political issues during the 1960s. In a retrospective five-star review of the album, Allmusic's Michael G. Nastos called it a crucial work in the African American civil rights movement of the early 1960s, Roach's discography, and African-American music in general because of the emotional range and resolve of the music and the enduring relevance of its message: "Every modern man, woman, and child could learn exponentially listening to this recording — a hallmark for living life." Piero Scaruffi cited it as Roach's masterpiece. John Morthland of eMusic gave the album four-and-a-half stars and wrote that, as a "jazz landmark" and enduring civil rights statement, it provided the model for a numerous amount of subsequent musical suites and presentations that dealt with the same subject.
In 2007, We Insist! was reissued by Candid in honor of Roach after his death. John Fordham of The Guardian gave the reissue four stars and called it a "landmark jazz album" that "testifies simultaneously to Roach's remarkable playing, his clout in the jazz world, and his politics."
- "Driva Man" (Roach, Oscar Brown) – 5:17
- "Freedom Day" (Roach, Brown) – 6:08
- "Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace" (Roach) – 8:09
- "All Africa" (Roach, Brown) – 8:01
- "Tears for Johannesburg" (Roach) – 9:42
- Max Roach – drums
- Abbey Lincoln – vocals
- Booker Little – trumpet on "Driva Man", "Freedom Day", "All Africa", and "Tears for Johannesburg"
- Julian Priester – trombone on "Driva Man", "Freedom Day", and "Tears for Johannesburg"
- Walter Benton – tenor saxophone on "Driva Man", "Freedom Day", and "Tears for Johannesburg"
- Coleman Hawkins – tenor saxophone on "Driva Man"
- James Schenk – bass on "Driva Man", "Freedom Day", and "Tears for Johannesburg"
- Michael Olatunji – congas, vocals on side two
- Raymond Mantilla – percussion on side two
- Tomas du Vall – percussion on side two
- LP liner notes by Nat Hentoff.
- Reich, Howard (September 3, 1995). "Such Sweet Sorrow". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Monson, Ingrid (September 2001). "Revisited! The Freedom Now Suite". JazzTimes. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Keepnews, Peter (August 16, 2007). "Max Roach, a Founder of Modern Jazz, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Morthland, John (August 29, 2006). "Max Roach, We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite". eMusic. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Fordham, John. "CD: Max Roach, We Insist! Freedom Now Suite". The Guardian (London). Film & Music section, p. 10. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Nastos, Michael G. "We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite - Max Roach". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Scaruffi, Piero (2006). "Max Roach". Piero Scaruffi. Retrieved July 22, 2013.