It was sad to hear of the passing of the great jazz drummer, Mickey Roker. He was 84, he died of natural causes, he played drums his entire adult life – Roker worked with so many of the greats. He was a force, as a progressive bop drummer, as a legendary sideman.
I have records in my collection that feature him playing with so many of jazz’s great names. He had a long association with The Modern Jazz Quartet. I first heard him on a Dizzy Gillespie album. Not long after I heard him nailing it with McCoy Tyner and Horace Silver, with Stanley Turrentine and on a couple of my favourite Sonny Rollins albums.
But also I heard him – and have his playing – on records by Ray Brown, Roy Ayers, Art Farmer, Ray Bryant, Gene Ammons, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Bobby Hutcherson, Gene Harris, Herbie Hancock, Joe Pass and Lee Morgan.
He appeared on classic jazz records and was always about the tune and supporting the other players. He often talked about not being a soloist, about not having chops. That’s not true of course – he had chops. But what he possessed, innately, was a drive, a force of rhythm inside him. He was propulsive, an so focussed on being a part of the engine-room, so focussed on it not being about him.
I admired his playing for that and admired him for that. A class act. And always tasteful, always about the music.