Roy Brooks

Roy Brooks towered alongside the premier percussionists of the hard bop generation, honing his explosively rhythmic style across now-classic dates led by Horace Silver, Yusef Lateef, and Sonny Stitt. A co-founder of Max Roach's pioneering Afro-jazz vehicle M'Boom, he also headlined several acclaimed LPs including the classic The Free Slave before a losing battle with bipolar illness brought his career to a tragic halt. Born in Detroit on March 9, 1938, Brooks began drumming as a child. A varsity basketball sensation, he received an athletic scholarship from the Detroit Institute of Technology but dropped out after three semesters to join reed master Lateef on tour. In 1959, Brooks' friend Louis Hayes recommended him to Silver, and the drummer's taut, fiery approach proved a perfect fit for such legendary dates as "Song for My Father," "Doodlin'," and "Señor Blues." While with Silver, Brooks also cut his first headlining date, 1963's Beat. After Silver shuffled his lineup in 1964, Brooks emerged as a fixture of the New York City jazz scene, reuniting with Lateef as well as playing in support of Stitt, Lee Morgan, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, and Milt Jackson. In 1970 Brooks assembled then-unknowns including bassist Cecil McBee and trumpeter Woody Shaw for The Free Slave, widely considered his masterpiece. That same year he joined M'Boom and in 1972 formed his own group, the Artistic Truth.