Roy Brooks was a groundbreaking drummer who emerged during the hard bop era. He began his career touring with Yusef Lateef and gained further recognition as a member of Horace Silver's Quintet from 1959 to 1964. Brooks released his first album as a leader in 1964 and went on to collaborate with notable musicians such as Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, Lee Morgan, Charles McPherson, Dexter Gordon, and Milt Jackson. During the 1970s, he joined Max Roach's percussion ensemble, M'Boom, and formed his own group, Artistic Truth. While he continued to work in more traditional formats with artists like Barry Harris and Geri Allen, Brooks also explored avant-garde jazz and incorporated unique instruments like the musical saw into his performances. Despite his successes, Brooks faced challenges related to his mental health, resulting in hospitalizations and a prison stint from 2000 to 2004. He eventually moved to a nursing home, where he passed away at the age of 67 in 2005.
One of Roy Brooks innovations was the Breath-a-tone, an apparatus used vacuum tubes to vary the pitch of a drum. Roy Brooks' album "Understanding," a recording of a live set from 1970, includes 5 pieces that are each more than 20 minutes long. In 1977 Roy Brooks founded a jazz education center for young people.
Roy Brooks was born in 1938 and grew up in Detroit. He discovered a passion for drumming during his elementary school years. As a teen he further honed his skills by attending daily music clinics with jazz pianist Barry Harris, and playing in a pick-up band that included saxophonist Charles McPherson and bassist James Jamerson. While still in high school, Brooks played at the well-known Blue Bird Inn alongside jazz greats Sonny Stitt and Joe Henderson. In addition to being a stand out drummer, Brooks was also a high school basketball star, earning a basketball scholarship to the Detroit Institute of Technology. He dropped out after only three semesters to go on tour with Yusef Lateef and pursue music full time.