OBITUARY

Cedric Brooks

April 27, 1943May 3, 2013

The Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks, who has died aged 70, was a renowned composer and musical arranger. Presiding over esoteric projects that married traditional Jamaican folk forms with freeform jazz and Rastafari consciousness, Brooks played an important role in the international dissemination of spiritually oriented reggae. His longstanding association with Studio One, one of Jamaica's leading recording studios, yielded some of the most intense reggae instrumentals ever recorded. Brooks was also a touring member of the Skatalites, Jamaica's best-known ska group.

Brooks was born in Denham Town, a slum to the west of the Jamican capital, Kingston. When his parents could no longer afford his school fees, he was sent aged eight to the Alpha Boys school, a Catholic charitable institution with a strict music programme. There he learned to play the piano and clarinet and, upon leaving school, joined the Jamaica Military Band on clarinet.

In the early 60s Brooks joined the popular club act the Vagabonds, on tenor saxophone, performing a steady diet of cover tunes. When the Vagabonds moved to the UK in 1964, he played in Sonny Bradshaw's group and Kes Chin's Souvenirs, before joining the Granville Williams Orchestra on baritone in a line-up that included the future Skatalites Roland Alphonso and Tommy McCook, plus the guitarist Ernest Ranglin.

Brooks spent a year in the house band at Club 35 in Montego Bay and left soon afterwards for the Bahamas, but before long he tired of performing for tourists. In addition to the jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, he was inspired by a compilation of Ethiopian music he then encountered. He moved to the US in 1968, and enrolled at Combs College of Music in Philadelphia. Meeting Sonny Rollins, Leon Thomas and Sun Ra's Arkestra greatly expanded his musical and philosophical horizons.

Brooks returned to Jamaica in 1970 and began recording at Studio One, making an instant impact on Burning Spear's Door Peep. With the trumpeter David Madden, Brooks recorded some forceful instrumentals under the name Im & David, of which Money Maker was the most popular. Determined to start an afrocentric group that would explore Jamaica's rich musical traditions and the Rastafari faith, Brooks and Madden then formed the Mystics, aiming to push the boundaries of jazz-influenced reggae.

In 1971, the Mystics appeared alongside Count Ossie's Rastafarian drum troupe, and members of both groups combined to form Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Hugely influential in the broader Caribbean and its diaspora, the group toured Guyana, Trinidad, the US and Canada in 1972. Their debut album was a wild triple-disc set called Grounation (1973).

That year, Brooks began running music workshops at the University of the West Indies, and formed the group Divine Light, holding daily workshops and monthly concerts at his home, as well as weekly sessions at the Turntable club in Kingston. Their debut album, From Mento to Reggae to Third World Music (1973, in the UK in 1975), explored traditional folk forms.

The group was renamed Light of Saba in 1974 and the eponymous album that soon surfaced was a complex stew of instrumental reggae jazz with African rhythmic underpinnings. The following year, the group toured Cuba at the request of Fidel Castro, and Brooks was prominently featured on the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari's wonderful second album, Tales of Mozambique. Light of Saba in Reggae (1976) was also superb and, although less grand in structure, Brooks's 1977 Studio One album, Im Flash Forward, was excellent, highlighting the emotive power of his melodies.

By the time Light of Saba's album Sabebe surfaced at the end of the 70s, Brooks had formed United Africa, which had over 30 members, their eponymous 1978 album a masterpiece of afrocentric big-band reggae jazz. In 1980 Brooks appeared prominently on another Mystic Revelation of Rastafari album, the less compelling One Truth. He then moved to New York and his output slowed, though after long periods of study in Ethiopia, he joined Carlos Malcolm for studio recordings in 1998 and then joined the Skatalites following the death of Alphonso.

Brooks is survived by seven children.

• Cedric Brooks, musician, composer and arranger, born 1943; died 3 May 2013

Services

  • Visitation Thursday, May 16, 2013
  • Funeral Service Friday, May 17, 2013
REMEMBERING

Cedric Brooks

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May 3, 2016

May the god of all comfort dry your tears at this time

jordan

May 23, 2013

God look down and see there was no medecation no doctor to ease your.suffering so he held your hands and say come home my son for there will be no more pain r i p

george brooks

May 17, 2013

RIP my bro

Mark Williams

May 14, 2013

My sincere condolences to all members of Cedric's family, including his loving sister Paulette who cared so much for him all these years. I'll always treasure those moments I shared with Cedric when we worked together on documenting the history and pulses of Jamaica's musical idioms. Your work and your beautiful energy will remain in all of us. RIP Cedric.

Mark Williams
Washington, DC

warren brady

May 11, 2013

we miss you

Nicole Houston-Amore

May 8, 2013

My deepest symphathy goes out to the family and I am so sorry about your lost. Cedric was such a very caring, humble and nice person. May he rest in peace and my prayers are with you all. God bless!!!!!!!

Cheryl

May 8, 2013

May the God of all comfort be with you.

Evette

May 8, 2013

Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.

A Am

May 8, 2013

To the family and friends of Mr. Brooks. My deepest sympathy goes out to you all, may You find comfort in the hope from God's own words. Romans 15:4

May 7, 2013

May God be with you and your family during this time of grief and sorrow.