Roy Brooks

Roy Brooks (March 9, 1938 – November 15, 2005) was an American jazz drummer.

Roy Brooks
Roy Brooks Drums.jpg
Background information
Born(1938-03-09)March 9, 1938
Detroit, Michigan, United States
DiedNovember 15, 2005(2005-11-15) (aged 67)
Associated actsBarry Harris, Beans Bowles, Blue Mitchell, Charles McPherson, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Four Tops, Horace Silver, Junior Cook, Lee Morgan, Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Stitt, Wes Montgomery


Early lifeEdit

Brooks was born in Detroit and drummed since childhood, his earliest experiences of music coming through his mother, who sang in church.[1] He was an outstanding varsity basketball player as a teenager and was offered a scholarship to the Detroit Institute of Technology; he attended the school for three semesters and then dropped out to tour with Yusef Lateef.[2]


After time with Lateef and Barry Harris, he played with Beans Bowles and with the Four Tops in Las Vegas.[3] He played with Horace Silver from 1959 to 1964, including on the album Song for My Father; in 1963 he released his first album as a leader. Following this he freelanced in New York City through the 1960s and early 1970s, playing with Lateef again (1967–70), Sonny Stitt, Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Junior Cook, Blue Mitchell, Charles McPherson, Pharoah Sanders (1970), Wes Montgomery, Dollar Brand, Jackie McLean, James Moody (1970–72), Charles Mingus (1972–73), and Milt Jackson. He married Hermine Brooks in 1967.[4] His 1970 album The Free Slave featured Cecil McBee and Woody Shaw. Later in 1970 he joined Max Roach's ensemble M'Boom, and in 1972 put together the ensemble The Artistic Truth.

Roy Brook in later years

Brooks's performances often included unusual instruments such as the musical saw and drums with vacuum tubes set up so as to regulate the pitch.[2] He began to acquire a reputation for bizarre behavior on and off stage, and occasionally sought treatment for mental disorders.[2][4] In 1975 he left New York and returned to Detroit, and began using lithium to regulate his behavior.[2] In the 1980s he returned to The Artistic Truth and gigged regularly in Detroit with Kenny Cox, Harold McKinney, and Wendell Harrison. With those three he co-founded M.U.S.I.C. (Musicians United to Save Indigenous Culture), and later also founded the Aboriginal Percussion Choir, an ensemble devoted to the use of non-Western percussion instruments.[4] He used his basement as a practice and learning space, working with children as well as accomplished musicians.[4]

In the 1990s Detroit's jazz scene waned, and Brooks ceased taking medication; he again began breaking down at gigs, and in 1994 was institutionalized for three weeks.[4] In 1997, he threatened his neighbor with a shotgun during a dispute over a lost set of house keys.[4] He was charged with assault but was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and was sentenced to mental treatment; however, he missed many of his appointments, and in 1999 he threatened another neighbor with a bullwhip and a machete over property rights to an adjacent vacant lot.[4] Sentenced to further psychiatric treatment, he disappeared again, and when probation officers found him, he was imprisoned late in 2000.[4] He served time at Marquette Prison until 2004, when he was placed in a nursing home.[2] He died there late in 2005. Brooks is survived by his wife Hermine and his two sons Raheem Brooks and Richard Elliott Brooks-Pinkston.

Posthumous albumEdit

In June 2011, Sagisttarius A-Star Records of Italy released a vinyl LP entitled Roy Brooks & the Improvisational Sphere, recorded by Charles Jazzrenegade Wood on September 3, 1999 Live at Lelli's, a well known Italian restaurant in Detroit. This is the sole available recording of this innovative select group assembled by Roy Brooks as the Improvisational Sphere for the three-day performance run at Lelli's. Personnel: Roy Brooks: Drums, Marimba, Steel Drum, Keyboard; Amina Claudine Myers: Hammond B-3 Organ and Vocals; Ray Mantilla: Congas, Bells, Percussion; Jerry LeDuff: Tabla, Cuica, Shekere, Berimbau, Percussion; Rodney Rich: Guitar. This recording was released with thanks and the approval of Hermine Brooks and Raheem Brooks.


As leaderEdit

As sidemanEdit

With Chet Baker

With Junior Cook

With Red Garland

With Dexter Gordon

With Abdullah Ibrahim

With Yusef Lateef

With M'Boom / with Max Roach

With Charles McPherson

With Blue Mitchell

With David Newman

With Sonny Red

With Red Rodney
With Hilton Ruiz

With Shirley Scott

With Woody Shaw

With Horace Silver

With Sonny Stitt

With Buddy Tate

With John Wright


  1. ^ John Fordham, "Roy Brooks – Jazz drummer at the frontier of his art", The Guardian, January 13, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e Roy Brooks at Allmusic
  3. ^ Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford, 1999, p. 82.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Music, Madness & Marquette Prison. Metro Times, December 12, 2001. Accessed March 11, 2008.