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Tenor saxophonist Bubba Brooksby Dan Kassell
Copyright © 2002 Dan Kassell
David Kenneth Brooks, known a "Bubba" in the jazz community, was a swing musician from the old school. His tenor saxophone sound, derived from Coleman Hawkins to Chu Berry to Hershel Evans to Lester Young and Paul Gonsalves always expressed a personal feeling for the blues. Jazz patron Al Vollmer said, "He digested all the greats and it still came out as Bubba Brooks."
Mr. Brooks was born in the "silk mill hill" part of Fayetteville, North Carolina. His father was a singer in a vocal group, and his brother Harold "Tina" Brooks also a tenor player recorded for Blue Note. After eight years with Sonny Thompson's R&B unit Bubba joined Bill Doggett for two decades and was a member of Ruth Brown's band when they played for Bill Clinton's first Inaugural Ball.
A member of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band since 1992, he could be found at the Louisiana Bar & Grill every Saturday night for their entire run until 1998, then at Sullivan's on Broadway. A Barbara Alper half-page photo of Bubba at Smalls appeared in the Sunday New York Times (1/16/00) with the headline "Where the Solos Last Till Dawn" featured with bassist Neal Miner's Quartet.
In June 2000 he supported three alumni in a Louis Armstrong Celebration of the hundredth year at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. View a video clip at http://tva.ru.com/harlem
His first solo album, The Big Sound of Bubba Brooks, recorded by Aleardo Buzzi included Bross Townsend (piano) and Grady Tate (drums). He also appeared in Bross Townsend's Band on I Love Jump Jazz, Claves Jazz and on Smooth Sailing, on Peter Schmidlin's TCB Records with Kenny Drew, Jr. (piano), Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums), both recorded in New York City, 1995. A soon to be released Barron recording titled "The Harlem Blues And Jazz Band Plays Public Domain" recorded 4/30/01 will feature Bubba on tenor sax.
At one of his last gigs, subbing on March 28th for guitarist Al Casey at Chez Suzette, a French Bistro on New York Cities Ninth Avenue, Russell Malone enthusiastically praised Bubba's originality and warm fuzzy sound then joined in on guitar to provide that special swing-jazz pulse that inspired Bubba.
Bubba had an exceptional ear and could remember even a phone number for years. "I don't put on no show," he told Michael Futch, Observer-Times writer in 1997, "I don't go through all the motion, I just stand there and play. That jumping around bit, I don't go for that. I play my best."
His best was exceptional, his favorites as he wrote them out for his feature evening at Shutters on March 31, 2001 with pianist Ed Swanston and drummer Tootsie Bean: Blue and Sentimental-Eb, Prelude to a Kiss-Db and Jumping at the Woodside-Bb.
Dr. Al Vollmer reports progress in edition footage for Kenyja Media video documentary "Harlem Blues And Jazz Band - The Last of the First" that includes Mr. Brooks in performance.
He passed over Thursday, April 11, 2002 at Harlem Hospital.
Dan Kassell is a swing-jazz fan, member of The Duke Ellington Society-New York City, Jersey Jazz Society and Director of Authentic Marketing.