SEMJA Celebrates Ron Brooks
On April 21, SEMJA will celebrate its 25th year by giving this year's SEMJA Award to our founder, Ron Brooks, at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. The Ron Brooks Trio with Tad Weed (piano) and George Davidson (drums) will perform at 7:00 p.m. and will be followed by an award presentation and a reception. Please call 734-769-2999 for a reservation or go to the KCH website.
Ron Brooks has contributed to the jazz community in the Detroit area in a number of ways. He emerged as a major bassist in the 1960s playing with piano greats-to-be Bob James and Stanley Cowell in various clubs in Ann Arbor. The Bob James Trio recorded Bold Conceptions for Mercury in 1962 in a modern style very different from James's later efforts in the smooth/fusion genre. In Detroit, Ron was a member of the Contemporary Jazz Quintet (led by pianist Kenn Cox) in the middle of the sixties, including recordings for Blue Note in 1968 and 1969. In the 1970s he was a founding member of Mixed Bag, a cooperative group with a fusion touch. The group included Eddie Russ on keyboards, Larry Nozero on saxes, Jerry Glassel on guitar, and Danny Spencer on drums. They played regularly at the Loma Linda and the Del Rio in Ann Arbor and recorded for Tribe Records in 1976.
In 1985, Ron opened the Bird of Paradise on Ashley in downtown Ann Arbor, and moved to Main Street from 2000 to 2004. His trio became the house band at the club and included a number of great pianists starting with Eddie Russ (who passed away in 1996), followed by Rick Roe (and others), and Tad Weed (in 2000). George Davidson was the first regular drummer in the trio and it is fitting that he is now back with the group at its weekly gig at the Raven's Club in Ann Arbor. Pete Siers and Gerald Cleaver also sat in the drum chair for longer spells.
As we detailed in our last issue, Ron founded SEMJA in the spring of 1987, which capped his profile in the jazz life of Southeastern Michigan. It is fitting that an award named for him will be given to Ron Brooks on our 25th birthday.