Monday, March 3, 2014

ROY BROOKS, drummer extraordinaire

I am ashamed. Ashamed of myself. It was not until last Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 that I discovered late Roy Brooks and his drumming.

I'm going to post a link here for his tune THE FREE SLAVE   which is one of those album cuts recorded to youtube. It's got a serious groove.

So listen to this seriously epic piece of music. Recorded during the same period cats like Miles Davis were putting rock and roll guitars and music in their jazz, Mr. Brooks was putting R&B in some of his Hard Bop music. Just follow the lead line by the horns and all in that cut. It's just too moving for me. It's spiritual soul jazz journey, as one description I found says.

I'm not one so much for Be Bop music, but much of what I have listened to in the past couple of days from Mr. Brooks has been fascinating to me as a groove drummer and a learning and listening experience to me in terms of the bop, or jazz with an improvisational aspect to both melody and rhythm. 

But Mr. Brooks often mixed R&B with his Hard Bop, and this is where I can really understand and get into the music is when there is some kind of theme, some kind of melody. It's not your traditional Bop stuff, with lots of squeaks and honks and such from the horns. Maybe that makes me not a distinguished jazz snob but a normal dude.

Here's another tune by Mr. Brooks, a long one. Roy Brooks and The Artistic Truth - The Last Profet. He was known for using unique instruments like saws and such, but also would connect rubber tubing, like surgical tubing, to the airholes in his drums, allowing him to add or remove air and drastically change the sound of the drum.  It is solid. It contains some great playing and some unbelievable rhythms! Just listen to the sounds in the intro and try to figure out how they are making them. The popular guess on one drum forum I read was the air tubes. It's not synthesizers or samples, kids.

The playing of the late Mr. Roy Brooks reminds me of that of my late friend, Houston drumming sensation, Orville Strickland. Orville passed in early 1996, and he was a peach of a fellow. What a great and innovative drummer, always playing something so simple yet so hard for other drummers like me to do, like laying behind the beat on the cymbal while playing on the beat with all else. Hard. To. Do.

Old Orville, like Mr. Brooks, had chops to spare and was probably what I like to call a "natural" drummer. They somehow have the vision, the memory and those nebulous myriad physical abilities that make a great technical drummer. Add those skills to the ability to groove and to visualize progressions, and you're gonna be an in demand drummer somewhere, somehow.

You can see it in some of the solos Mr. Brooks does. He's capable of Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa or Neal Pert or Carl Palmer drum exhibitions, but he's not out to show off. He's out to groove, and the nature of improvisational music like Bop means the ability to step out in front with a solo every now and then, and for both those duties, Mr. Brooks is more than capable.

There's some great pictures of him here, with his kit, a saw and a bullwhip.

I've included some links to read about his interesting life, with some real tragedy and sadness due to mental illness and the lack of appropriate resources in this country to help those with serious and diagnosed mental illness, instead of sending them to jail and prison. Despite the demons that haunted him, he accomplished much in terms of his art. Here's his obit in the Guardian and in the Independent. Here's some other articles showing that even when he was imprisoned, he had plans for music and was making music. Go here and here  and here.