Ron Brooks Celebration at Kerrytown Concert House

The Kerrytown Concert House put on a celebration honoring Ann Arbor’s “Jazz Mayor” Ron Brooks on September 16. Fellow bassist and bandleader Paul Keller organized the event (a Paul Keller House Call) and Brooks was clearly moved by all the attention. It was a very well attended event with music by a long line of area jazz men (above), and speeches by most including the honoree.

It is hard to know where to start when honoring Brooks since he has been involved in jazz on so many levels: as a bassist, bandleader, jazz activist and club-owner since the early 1960s. A convenient starting point is his recording with the Bob James Trio for Mercury from 1962. The trio got started when James was a student at the University of Michigan, and it played at local bars and nearby jazz festivals like one at Notre Dame.

After James left town Brooks was one of the founders of Mixed Bag, which included saxophonist Larry Nozero, pianist Eddie Russ, and drummer Danny Spencer. The group played local restaurants like the Loma Linda, and bars like the Del Rio where Brooks was the unofficial booking agent.

In 1984 he opened the Bird of Paradise, which featured music seven nights a week and closed after moving to Main Street in 2008. The club featured the Ron Brooks Trio, area bands, plus many traveling jazz notables like Dizzy Gillespie, Betty Carter, Emily Remler, David Newman, and Frank Morgan.
In 1987 he was the founding father of SEMJA and continues today as President Emeritus.

TOP (from left): Vincent Bowens, George Davidson, Rick Roe, Ron Brooks, Rayse Biggs, Cary Kocher, Paul Keller

photograph by Lars Bjorn

ABOVE: Ron Brooks

photograph by Jeff Dunn