"Drums are not a solo instrument". Apparently, nobody sent that memo to Max Roach. Drums Unlimited was my first introduction to the melodic and solo possibilities of the drum set.
The recording released in 1966 consisted of three solo drum tracks and three band tracks. I was a 15-year old buying every drum record I could find, whether it was Teen Beat by Sandy Nelson or "Orgy In Rhythm" by Art Blakey. "Drums Unlimited" was as revolutionary as "Kind of Blue" or "Giant Steps".
It was the first time that a drummer recorded composed works for the drum set without accompaniment. I know that this recording may seem somewhat tame to a generation raised on Terry Bozzio and the "Black Page", but it was the first and by far the best recording of its kind.
The signature piece on the recording was, and still is "The Drum Also Waltzes"--a piece that I would play in my senior recital. It was built on a simple (boom-dit) ostinato with a motif in eighth notes.
It's been many years since I sat at the drums in the recital hall to play the "Drum Also Waltzes". I realized shortly after that performance how much this album had influenced me. "Drums Unlimited" changed the way I looked at my instrument. I was no longer a provider of rhythm, but a maker of music. I'm glad I bought it.