Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks Saxophonist who played ska, reggae and rocksteady


In 1973, the Jamaican saxophonist and composer Cedric “Im” Brooks issued a wonderful album entitled From Mento to Reggae to Third World Music.

The collection included dynamic renditions of material associated with Justin Hinds, the Skatalites and Bob Marley and fused the genres name-checked in its title with jazz, ska, rocksteady and afrobeat. Regularly rereleased, it neatly encapsulates the contribution Brooks made to Jamaican music over the past 50 years.

Like many of his contemporaries, including the original Skatalites horn section of trombonist Don Drummond, tenor saxophonist Tommy McCook, trumpeter Johnny “Dizzy” Moore and alto saxophonist Lester Sterling, Brooks was a pupil at the legendary Alpha Boys School, the charitable institution run by Roman Catholic nuns under the direction of Sister Mary Ignatius in his native Kingston. He first went there in his early teens, and thrived under its excellent music programme. Brooks played the piano and the clarinet before switching to the flute and the tenor saxophone.

Following a spell in the Jamaica Military Band, he joined various groups on the hotel and holiday-resort circuit, teaming up with McCook and another future Skatalite, Roland Alphonso, as well as guitarist Ernest Ranglin, in the Granville Williams Orchestra. He went on to residencies in Montego Bay and the Bahamas before becoming part of Sound Dimension, the session men assembled by the producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd at Studio One in Kingston.

In 1968, he relocated to Philadelphia and followed in the footsteps of John Coltrane, one of his major influences, when he studied at Combs College of Music. Already interested in Ethiopia and the Rastafarian belief system revolving around Emperor Haile Selassie, he took on board the avant-garde jazz of Sun Ra as well as the groundbreaking collaboration between Pharoah Sanders and ululating vocalist Leon Thomas – and began forging his own mystical hybrid. Having returned to Jamaica, Brooks played on “Door Peep”, Burning Spear’s 1969 debut single, and formed Im and David with trumpeter David Madden. They cut a series of distinctive, Eastern and African-flavoured, mostly instrumental singles for Studio One, such as “Black Is Black”, “Mystic Mood” and “Money Maker”, which contributed to the emergence of roots reggae and dub.

Brooks and Madden then billed themselves as the Mystics, before striking an alliance with Count Ossie and his troupe of chanting Rastafarian drummers. Under the name Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, in 1973 this ensemble made a diverse and influential three-album set entitled Grounation after the holy day celebrating Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966.

His subsequent recordings with the Divine Light, subsequently renamed the Light of Saba, and the transcendent Im Flash Forward and United Africa albums he issued under his own name in the late 1970s, continued in a similar Afro-conscious vein. In 1975 he retitled his storming version of Hamilton Bohannon’s “South African Man” for the producer Clive Chin “South African Reggae”.

Brooks was not only a pioneer of jazz-reggae-afrobeat fusion, but also an educator who ran workshops in Kingston and at the University of the West Indies. He performed in Cuba as well as Canada and the US, moving to New York in the 1980s. In 1998 he recorded with the Jamaican trombonist and bandleader Carlos Malcolm in San Francisco before replacing the late Alphonso in the reactivated Skatalites. He spent part of the next decade touring and recording with them. He had been seriously ill for the last three years and died of a heart attack at a hospital in New York.

Cedric Brooks, saxophonist and composer: born Kingston, Jamaica 1943; seven children; died New York 3 May 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'