Cedric Im Brooks smiled and also shed a tear on the day the world celebrated fathers and a historic African-American landmark date. For a majority it was Father’s Day. For many African-Americans, June 19 also marked Juneteenth Day in 1865 when slaves were freed from white captivity in the south of the USA. It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in America.
For Jamaica’s Africa-centered tenor saxophonist, it was a day dedicated to Brooks’ musicianship, his lifelong dedication to the African continent and his allegiance to the Ethiopian orthodoxy. Presented with two proclamations, which were accepted by his sister Paulette Keise – one from Bronx, New York State Assembly Eric Stevenson, the other from Queens Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, the celebrated musician was regaled with plaudits from long-time friends and associates.
Assemblyman Stevenson had publicly presented the honor three days earlier in the presence of his colleagues at the seat of state government in Albany. However, he said he wanted to visit with Brooks and deliver the honor at the location he is confined.
The Bronx legislator read portions from the framed document which exalts Brooks, a worthy recipient of the distinguished New York state honor.
Rep. Meeks did not attend the afternoon reception. However, a representative from his office delivered the official proclamation.
After the ceremonial presentations, friends, associates and religious representatives took turns reflecting on the stellar cultural and musical contributions of the Jamaican legend.
A 3,000 year-old, liturgical chant provided blessings from Kes Ephrem, a priest, who used the occasion to dispense religious, ritual representation befitting Brooks’ lifelong faith.
Kess Mahijama Selassie of the Most Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Bronx also offered his personal perspective on the ailing musician.
Brooks’ sister Paulette and his daughter Kidan said they were both happy that his life’s work is being acknowledged and that there are individuals who recognize his talent and contribution.
Larry McDonald, Afro-Jamaican percussionist who toured with Gil Scott-Heron, Taj Mahal and is now gearing to return to the road with Lee “Scratch” Perry spoke volumes about the colleague he regarded as iconic to the industry.
“I was a student at Jamaica School of Drama when I first met Cedric,” documentarian Michael Bryan said, “I have always wanted to make a film about him. I started three years ago and will have to complete my documentary now.”
Jah B, an herbal specialist said he first met Brooks at Jamaica School of Music and that the day offered a “momentous occasion” to pay tribute to Brooks.
“Cedric is with us, it is appropriate that we have this opportunity to honor him while he is alive. He always spoke highly of Africa and jazz – those two things were his constant focus.”
The Rastafarian, health conscious advocate said his affiliation with Brooks extends to his youthful years living in Jamaica.
Joy Tulloch said she was a member of the Light of Saba Band, the group Brooks assembled. On this occasion she spoke candidly about Brooks, an early role model who she said noticed potential in her, she did not even recognize.
“I knew him since I was a teenager. Cedric loved music, music is his life. He used to call me Desta because in Amharic (Ethiopian vernacular) it means Joy. I hope he finds peace in the bosom of Abraham.”
While a great many guests espoused fond remembrances, actress Andrene Bonner demonstrated her prowess by performing a dramatic selection Brooks might have approved. Seated at a table amongst friends, Bonner wailed an alerting refrain that perhaps Brooks might have heard three floors up from his bedside position on the fifth floor of Silvercrest Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center. The author of “Olympic Garden” chose a Jamaica-familiar rendition composed by fellow author Louise Bennett-Coverley.
Rising from her seated position she wailed “Eeeeevvvveeenin’ Time,” to introduce a refrain from the island’s folk repertoire. Performed to her unique signature dramatics, Bonner raised the bar by hailing her friend, compatriot and idol with a lively rendition of “Evening Time.”
A decade ago, Bonner volunteered services to serve as manager/ publicist/personal assistant and loyal patron of the musician who is revered in proclamation as a pivotal contributor to the evolution of Jamaica’s music. Brooks worked as a studio musician with Sir Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label playing with revered local legends — Jackie Mittoo, Ernest Ranglin, Vin Gordon and Roland Alphanso.
Brooks also teamed with trumpeter David Madden to form Im & David.
Brooks’ flute/saxophone notes are also key ingredients to recordings by The Vagabonds dance band, Sun Ra Arquestra, The Wailers, Burning Spear and The Heptones.
Catch you on The Inside!