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I Flew Drummer Max Roach to Paris

Sometime during the 1980's, I was the Captain of a Pan Am flight going from New York to Paris. The aircraft was an Airbus A310.

We were in the boarding process and the cockpit door was still open, which was fairly standard during those days. I looked back and saw someone sitting in the first seat of Clipper Class that looked like the famous bebop era jazz drummer, Max Roach. So, I asked the Purser to check the manifest and tell me his name. It was Max Roach.


Knowing that it was Max Roach, who was one of my jazz drummer idols, I wanted to meet him, so I asked the Purser to give him my card and tell him I would like to come back and chat with him sometime during cruise when I have a break.


About an hour into the flight when things on the flight deck were settled down, I was able to take a few minutes break, and go back to visit with him. We chatted for about 10 minutes and he said he was going to Paris to do a couple of clinics. That evening in Paris, I had plans to go to a jazz club to see my drummer friend and instructor Kim Plainfield who was performing with Tania Maria. Whenever Kim was playing somewhere that I would be, I would go see him. Max said he would love to go see Tania Marie and if his scheduled allows it, he will be there. (He wasn't able to make it).


After our chat, I went back to the cockpit, and the Purser came up to ask me who he was. I gave her his history, and let her know that he is a giant in the field of jazz who is highly respected by every jazz musician. Also, I asked if she would give him special celebrity treatment - and she did!


Several months later, Mr. Roach was performing at Kimball's East, a noted jazz club in Emeryvill, CA, near Oakland. My wife and I went to see the show, which was excellent, as usual. After the show, we went backstage for the meet and greet. When I reminded Mr. Roach that I was the Pan Am Captain who took him to Paris, his eyes lit up and he said to his manager, that on that flight he was treated like "Royalty", and he thanked me for a memorable flight. I told him he was "Royalty" and deserved that treatment.

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