Roy Brooks – Exceptional Drummer

SKF NOTE: August 2021 is a month where I’m finding and buying lots of good music in different styles. From Max Richter’s Exiles, to Lari White’s New Loves, Lee Morgan’s The Complete Live at the Lighthouse, and my latest buy, Roy Brooks’s Understanding.

The only common connection these albums have is I’m familiar with the artists’ work. I like their music.

Roy Brooks was an exceptional drummer. I saw him play up close one night in Charles Mingus’s band at a small Manhattan nightclub. Brooks had a five-piece kit with clear plastic tubing inserted into each drum’s air hole. All the tubes were gathered together at the other end so he could fit them in his mouth. During his solo feature, Roy changed his drums’ pitch by blowing air into them.

What could have been a gimmick wasn’t. Brooks’s drum pitch raising and lowering was very musical. Credit for that musicality was all due Roy Brooks, not the plastic tubing. He also played an exceptional blues solo on his musical saw, tapping the metal blade with a mallet and bending the blade to change its pitch.

The new released Understanding has an ear-catching lineup of musicians: Cecil McBee (bass), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Harold Mabern (piano), and Carlos Garnett (tenor sax). Recorded live in 1970, the sound, by today’s standards, is not good in spots. I’ve not listened yet to the whole album, but I’ve listened enough to know the the date was sometimes recorded too hot. Shaw’s trumpet recording level, for example, distorts.

On the other hand, from what I’ve heard so far, Roy Brooks kills it on this date. So I will give the album a listen, a real listen, and let you know what happens.

It’s funny how my music buying changes. Most often I’ll browse Bandcamp, Apple Tunes, (I’m boycotting Amazon since November), and independent announcements of album releases — and nothing strikes my fancy. Other times I find more albums than I can afford.

And so it goes.

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