Max Roach, whose briliant percussion work has been a usable yardstick for more than 30 years, headed a program of music, political commentary, comedy and fashion Saturday night at the Warner Theater, launching the fall season of the Paul Robeson International Center.
Roach's quartet, including trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and bassist Calvin Hill, performed two extended pieces, the most arresting of which was "Scott Free," an eight part composition that featured the four soloing in the alternately lyrical and fiery fashion.
The leader also played two outstanding unaccompanied solos, the free-flowing "Sweet Mao" from a suite of the same name and "Mr. Papa Jo," a crisp exercise on foot symbol dedicated to drummer Jo Jones.
Political commentary and traditional Afro-American a cappella harmonies came from Sweet Honey in the Rock, a female trio led by Bernice Regon. The group sang songs about oppression in Chile and South Africa and political assassination in the United States. However, not until the trio sang an old folk melody did its lyrical charm shine as much as its political statement.
Also performing was Neil Lewis, WETA-FM announcer, who, in a booming bass, sang several songs associated with Paul Robeson; 17-year-old impressionist Christopher Thomas, and the Lawrence Parker Ltd. Fashion Show.