I saw Max and his band play in the early 1990s at UVA, when the university was still putting on tremendous jazz festivals that brought everybody who was anybody in the jazz world in. The jazz fan that I am today would love to be able to remember who was in Max’s band that night. All I remember is that his dry beat and drier wit stole the show that night. And I am sorry that I only got a chance to see him that once; though I am glad that I got the chance.
Recommended recordings: just about any Parker or Diz recording; the We Insist! Freedom Now jazz suite, featuring Abbey Lincoln on some seriously inspired vocals; Money Jungle, the trio recording that he cut with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. Other pivotal recordings listed by Ben Ratliff in the Times.