One of my great pleasures in life is to spend time in used vinyl records store and look for rare gems. To discover artists that I never heard of, or great albums I never listened to is almost as strong as discovering new bands to me. There are so many great unknown musicians and superb albums that were lost through the years (for a bunch of various reasons), that this is an endless quest.

Photo by Libertinus Yomango

I found this double album in Washington DC at the Sum record store during the summer of 2017. First, the sleeve is awesome, and the design is sober but beautiful. The cover unwraps to show two vinyl records carefully protected by strong cardboard inner sleeves, on which there’s a transcript of an interview with the artist.

 

Cedric Im Brooks is a saxophone player that has been involved in Kingston’s music scene his childhood: he grew up in the same house as Baba Brooks and went to a music school at age 8, picking up the clarinet and being interested in the jazz scene. He played with Leslie Butler, Headley Jones in Montego Bay, then with Ernie Ranglin before moving to Nassau and Freeport and going deeper into Ethiopian music, on top of Coltrane and Pharoah.

In the late 60s, Brooks was in Philadelphia, playing with Sonny Rollins and Sun Ra, exploring different mixtures of styles around jazz and Caribbean music. Back in Jamaica, he started a spiritual movement combined with a music school, initially called The Divine Light, then The Light of Saga, where music was created in Brooks’ house every day.

 

This double album is a compilation of all Cedric Im Brooks’ music through the decades. Largely instrumental, it is remarkable for the horn players at the front of each song: Brooks on sax and clarinet, Calvin Bubbles Cameron (who had formed Im and Dave with Brooks at one point) and Nambo Robinson on the trombones, Dean Frazer on trumpet, Barbara Boland on flute (whose work is highlighted on the song Rebirth). They are particularly spectacular on the dialogues they have on Sly Mongoose.

Cedric Im Brooks’ music is laid-back as any reggae music should be, but there is great quality in the melodies and horn arrangements that we rarely hear, as developed in reggae, except maybe in Ernest Ranglin’s records, which are somehow closer to jazz than the average Bob Marley song. Songs like Africa are soaked in the influence Fela Kuti had on Brooks in the 70s.

 

Obviously, through the decades and the different band members he played with, Cedric Im Brooks’ music changed a bit. This 2-record compilation goes to show that the man was pretty focused on his own way, always including strong jazz components in his music. And even though he can blow a great sax or clarinet solo in a song, it never steals the main show: this music is about being together, united, spiritually and musically speaking.

He certainly achieved that!

The man passed away on May 3rd, 2013, n New York, after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 70.

cedric im brooks

CEDRIC IM BROOKS
And The Light of Saba
(Honest Jon’s Records, 2003)

-Genre: roots reggae
-In the same ballpark as The Abyssinians, early Wailers, Lee “Scratch” Perry

Buy the album on Discogs
Follow the artist via his Facebook page

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.