Max Roach: Freedom Now Suite (Tears for Johannesburg + Prayer / Protest / Peace)

This striking performance of North Carolina-born drummer Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite,” a medley of “Tears for Johannesburg” and the triptych “PRAYER / PROTEST / PEACE,” is believed to be recorded by a Belgian television station in 1964—the same year the Civil Rights Act deemed discrimination based on race, color, religion, and gender illegal. Referred to as “an early soundtrack to Black Lives Matter” by the North Carolina Arts Council, the tracks addressed injustices in the US and in South Africa—including repulsive reactions to sit-ins in Greenboro’s Woolworth’s Department Store and the Sharpeville Massacre in the apartheid-stricken African nation. Roach, with Abbey Lincoln (vocals), Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (piano), Eddie Khan (bass) and Clifford Jordan (saxophone) dedicated their artistic abilities to justice. Labeled avant-garde, and oftentimes largely improvised, the piece struck a nerve among white jazz-listeners and was praised within Black communities as revolutionary and representative. In the liners notes of We Insist! (the album on which the tracks appeared), the triptych is explained as the “uncontrollable unleashing of rage and anger that have been compressed in fear for so long.”