Brooklyn residents jazzed to honor legendary Max Roach

Brooklyn residents jazzed to honor legendary Max Roach

A change.org petition seeks to rename a Bed-Stuy street in the jazz giant’s honor.

Dara Roach, left, Max Roach's youngest daughter, said that having a street renamed in his honor would be a great way to commemorate the legacy he left in Bed-Stuy. 
Dara Roach, left, Max Roach’s youngest daughter, said that having a street renamed in his honor would be a great way to commemorate the legacy he left in Bed-Stuy.  Photo Credit: Getty Images / Neilson Barnard

Nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition to rename a street in Brooklyn after the late jazz musician Max Roach.

Roach, who spent most of his life living in the borough, died in 2007 at 83 after a legendary career setting the beat for icons like Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. A pioneer of bebop, Roach was often referred to as the greatest of all jazz drummers.

“As a young man he put together bands to play at rent parties to help tenants in his community to pay their rent,” the online petition reads. “He along with Charles Mingus started a Brooklyn-based record company at the Putnam Central Jazz Club … On the main floor of the club, he taught young children music lessons during the day.”

The petition seeks to rename a street near Roach’s longtime home — 85 Monroe Street in Bed-Stuy — where, his daughter Dara Roach says, local musicians changed the course of modern music.

“He was part of a group of young men who were musicians and artists in one of the largest black communities in New York City. Brooklyn was a very economically diverse, culturally rich black community,” she said. “In that neighborhood where they are planning on putting the sign is his home, where he had Charlie Parker, Charlie Mingus … all of that came from that stoop corner street of Bed-Stuy.”

The unnamed organizers would need to bring their petition and letters of support to Community Board 3 in Brooklyn, where they’d be expected to present during a public hearing. Henry Butler, the board’s district manager, said it had not yet seen the proposal but doesn’t see a reason why it wouldn’t win support, provided a majority of the neighborhood is in agreement. If the community board approves the petition, it would recommend to the City Council that the request be granted.

The online organizers have a goal of 5,000 signatures. One signer wrote it would be "fitting for him to be memorialized in this way" as Roach "was a true innovator and giant of American music." Another petitioner simply wrote that Roach "is an important part of Brooklyn’s history" who "deserves to be honored."

Dara also said that people can expect more commemorations about her father in the near future, including an "amazing" documentary about his life. She is also working on creating a website devoted to him, which will have coming events honoring his work, information about his music and life, and documents and letters written from and about Max Roach from the Library of Congress. The website is expected to go live within the next week, and the documentary, from filmmaker Sam Pollard, will be released in about a year.

“We are preserving his legacy and trying to promote and preserve the legacy of jazz music constantly,” she said. “It would simply mean a lot to him. … Just for the neighborhood where he came from to honor him I think is really so special to us. We knew how much Bed-Stuy meant to him and our whole family.”

Li Yakira Cohen