Language requisite, blech
Local bassist and club owner talks about
history of jazz and doing his own thing
Ron Brooks is entering his fourth year as the owner and operator of the
Bird of Paradise, Ann Arbor's premier jazz club. Born in Chicago, Brooks
came to the area in his early teens. He attended Ann Arbor Pioneer High
School and pursued his interest in vocals, joining the glee club.
In the mid '60s, Brooks received a Bachelors degree in speech and physical
education from Eastern Michigan University where he captained the
wrestling team. He also found a new musical interest - the stand-up,
After graduating from Eastern, Brooks spent a year in Europe traveling
and performing. Upon returning to Ann Arbor, he met pianist Bob James,
who was a University student at the time. The two began performing to-
gether, going on to win Notre Dame's Intercollegiate Jazz Festival
competition in both individual and group categories. As first place winners,
the group was granted an extended stint at the Village Vanguard in New
While working at Wayne State University as a financial aid counselor,
Brooks formed the Contemporary Jazz Quintet with Detroiters Charles
Moore, Ken Cox, Dan Spencer, and Leon Henderson. Brooks continued his
interest in counseling by pursuing a Masters at the University and by open-
ing his own clinic in Ann Arbor. His musical pursuits continued as well
with the quintet Mixed Bag and the Ron Brooks' Trio.
Currently, Brooks is teaching History of Jazz at the University and has
previously taught at Northern Michigan University and at Wayne State. He
is the leader of the Ron Brooks' Trio and frequently sits in with top-notch
performers during their appearances at the Bird of Paradise. Recently Brooks
spoke with WEEKEND Associate Editor Brian Bonet.
WEEKEND: This year you are teaching History of Jazz at the Univer-
sity and you've done some teaching in the past. Ideally, what is the main
thing you want your students to get out of the course?
BROOKS: I keep harping in class about being informed listeners. We
hope to give people the tools to be able to listen with an informed ear.
W: You have had a lot of education in your lifetime and, looking back, it
appears that you were becoming quite established in the counseling field. It
seems that opening your own jazz club was a risky career move. Was it a
B: I think it's a metaphor to the music itself. To make the music alive, a
certain amount of risk has to be taken to expand your own personal ability.
If you are doing what you want to do, it will come across to your audience.
To try and fail is one thing; not to try and fail is a completely different
W: So you have no regrets.
B: None at all.
W: When Tommy Flanagan played your club last year, he commented
that the Bird of Paradise is a great name for a jazz club for two reasons.
First, it mentions "Bird," Charlie Parker. Second, it forms a fitting
acronym: Bop. Did you come up with the name?
See INTERVIEW, Page 11
It is just past midnight and I am
sitting in Taco Bell, with a burrito
in one hand and my Spanish text-
book in another, waiting for
Pablo, my $15 an hour Spanish
Easy does it, I tell myself. It's
September, the beginning of a
new term. Don't strain yourself
too hard too early. Many-a-student
have passed out from trying to
conjugate the irregular preterite
tense; warm up with the present.
Gently, now. Breath in, breathe
out - Hable, hables. Breathe in,
breathe out -Hablo, hablamos....
"Hola, Juanito," a voice speaks
from behind. It is Pablo. A pa-
tronizing smile sits frozen on his
face and he nods his head three
times, slowly, as if - already -
patiently tolerating my stupidity.
"zComo estas hoy?"
"I am fine today, Pablo."
Of course, this is a lie. I am not
fine today because I have a big
Spanish test tomorrow, and if I
fail it - as I have the past two
terms - I won't be able to gradu-
ate on time. I obtained Pablo's
services over the summer in the
hope he would make the material
more accessible. Somehow,
whether through his fault (maybe)
° - ;
or through mine
Now. Take a poll of students
enrolled in the school of Litera-
ture, Science, and the Arts and I'll
bet my bottom dollar they'll say:
the biggest hurdle between them
and a Bachelor of Arts degree is
the foreign language requirement.
If a student doesn't have four years
of a language in high school or
doesn't place out of a language
duringsthe orientation tests, he or
she has to get over the hurdle -
by completing the fours levels of
a language here at the University.
Simple as A-B-C, you say? No
way, Jose. Anyone who has
strolled down the halls of the
Modern Language Building and
glanced at the grades posted out-
side language T.A.'s doors will
tell you: the Foreign Language
department's alphabet starts with
"C" and ends with "F." I have
talked with students who have said
they suffered and slaved through
note cards and lab tapes - and tu-
tors, too - only to get an "A" for
effort and "E" for execution. It's
almost not fair.
Pablo is now talking about the
reading. Spot doesn't run anymore
in Spanish 231; instead, when you
reach this level of a foreign lan-
guage, you start talking about the
culture and the people. And it's as
easy to get lost as if you were
thrown on the streets of Barcelona
for the first time.
"No era necesario el dinero en
aquella sociedad..." says Pablo but
I don't hear him anymore because
I'm daydreaming about something,
anything else. When I finally
wake up, I come to the realization
that holding a text book in Taco
Bell and hoping to learn a lan-
guage through osmosis won't do
Pablo's time is up, and he goes
First-year students who are faced
with jumping the language hurdle,
gather 'round. Lean your head on
my weary shoulder; listen to the
voice of experience. The voice of a
See SHEA, Page 11
Continued from Page 4
liven up the chainsaw drone of the
album. After blasting through two
songs and a respectable cover of
John Lennon's "Instant Karma," the
sensitive playing of a twelve-string
guitar begins "Alone Against the
World," a song about a seventeen-
year-old boy drowning in a river of
whiskey and misery and one of the
best songs on the album.
The Adolescents began playing in
1981 as a part of California's Or-
ange County nascent punk scene.
After a full-length album, the band
went through several personnel
changes and a temporary absence
before regenerating in 1987 with
"Brats in Battalions." After another
personnel change, the current lineup
of the band consists of brothers
Rikk and Frank Agnew, Steve
Soto, and Sandy Hanson.
What makes this album worth
buying is the emotional fervor
which drives the band. Soto and
Rikk Agnew share the lead vocals
and both sound like graduates of the
John Lennon school of singing and
screaming. The drumming could
improve, but there is enough guitar
crunch to satisfy any metal wor-
shipper and enough musical sur-
prises (like the hammond organ on
"I'm a Victim") to satisfy interested
passer-bys. -Ken Kociba
Continued from Page 5
Actually there were some com-
mendable performances in support-
ing roles. Hope is great as the
governors' daughter, and while the
part is fairly simple, she makes the
most of it. So does Alan Toy who
plays a reporter and the only person
who knows Wade's dual identity.
It's funny that the minor roles are
played by unknowns who out-per-
form the "stars."
Speaking of funny, humor-wise
this film was a strange experience.
People anywhere can be witty and
naturally make a comical remark
once in a while, except in this film.
Writer Spenser Eastman entirely
forgot that a character can have a
sense of humor. No one should
spend two hours. of their life with-
out laughing at least once, espe-
cially when they're paying to sit in
a darkened theater watching an inane
To put it simply, if you are
looking for a film about the title
state, then stick to The Wizard of
Oz, and if you want to see wheat-
fields then your best bet is Okla-
homa! This film is almost bad
enough to make Kansas want to
secede from the Union. Almost.
Continued from Page 5
A Handful of Dust ultimately
overturns an established scenario,
be it a strong marriage or a formu-
laic public television setting.
This band is so unusual that they
challenge comparison. Fans of
"quirky music" will love it. They
are basically acoustic with an occa-
sional surprisingly electric jolt, and
even some jazz instrumentation. I
guess it is acoustic-folky-rock with
a country flavor. That is to say that
there are guitars and vocals -- well
sung and with bizarre lyrics. They
have an elusive quality that is...
Five members with the regular
sounds plus violin, sitar, cello,
mandolin, trumpet, tablas, etc. etc.
Aw shucks. Seek it out and you tell
me! I'll just say it's swell.
-Marc S. Taras
Here is a beautiful set of solo
performances for the Kora, the 21-
string harp-lute of West Africa.
"Kaira" is an all-instrumental LP
from the so-called "Prince" of the
Kora, Toumani Diabate. His royal
OFF THE WALL
Up toward the ceiling of
a local phone booth
reads the following:
I'm the highest.
FUCK YOU, I'M THE
HIGHEST OF THEM
No you're not I'm
higher. I'm high.
(in response and
completely on the
Bugman is the highest.
HEY MO..:5 HOPou'gE
NOT OFF ENDED; 9 Ml&R:
"iMlxroN is VC MOST
5lINCE RM RNOF FATERY.
X?'N, U11 GSTlNG TIRED W
OF ALL~iIS 7LATMRY 0
%~iI WOULD SETTLE
" ~FoRA L~ITLE iIS?ELT.
PAGE 10 WEEKEND/SEPTEMBER 301988 WEEKEND/SEPTEMBER 30, 1988
WEEKEND/SEPTEMBER 34, 1988 °,