The Ron Brooks Trio
The Mayor of Downtown
by Photograph by J. Adrian Wylie
The Bird of Paradise has been serving jazz seven nights a week for more than fifteen years, and throughout that time a trio led by bassist Ron Brooks, who owns the club, has been a featured attraction. But the band antedates the club by many years: its roots go back to the Bob James Trio, which recorded in 1963 for Mercury under the tutelage of another rising star, Quincy Jones, and accompanied such luminaries as Sarah Vaughan at Notre Dame and Eric Dolphy at the long defunct Golden Falcon club in Ann Arbor. During the late 1960s, after James left town, the group morphed into the Ron Brooks Trio.
Over the years many highly individual pianists have worked with the Trio, including Stanley Cowell, Eddie Russ, and Rick Roe. Drummers such as George Davidson have also left their imprint on the sound of the group. Few groups anywhere have the luxury of playing a few nights a week for years on end, but these three musicians, as the house band of the Bird, have had the opportunity to develop an uncanny musical cohesion. In addition to their weekly gigs, every few months or so they work with visiting soloists of the highest caliber. Many of us still remember the magic nights when the late Emily Remler played some of the finest jazz guitar anywhere, expertly propelled by the Brooks Trio. And late in the last century, the veteran alto saxophonist Frank Morgan came to town, and once again the trio found an astounding sense of rapport with an exceptional soloist. Morgan comes back every year, and each time he and the trio find the same magic.
The various trios that Brooks has led over the years have all had their strong points; the current version, with Tad Weed on piano and Pete Siers on drums, is perhaps the most rhythmically complex of them all. Weed is a versatile, swinging, two-fisted player who likes to accentuate chords
with his left hand while spinning complex lines with his right. These jabs provide a perfect opportunity for drummer Siers, who often dances around Weed's rhythms and Brooks's steady bass. The result is a powerful yet flexible propulsion that drives the music forward with great swing. The trio also like to vary the pulse and intensity of the music, so that the textures and moods shift from tune to tune. All of this is much in evidence on their latest CD, Three B in Flight as well as every Tuesday and Thursday night at the Bird of Paradise.
[Originally published in February, 2002.]