Charlotte Kerr has just phoned to let me know that her husband, Brooks Kerr, 66, passed away on the evening of April 28 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital after an illness that saw him decline dramatically over the final two weeks. The exact cause is as yet undetermined, but she plans to request an autopsy.
Brooks took up piano at an early age and decided he wanted to specialize in jazz. He gravitated to stride piano and his education was greatly assisted by a perfect choice in mentors: Willie "the Lion" Smith and Duke Ellington, both of whom taught him lessons in music and life. His thirst for historical trivia concerning jazz and the world of Duke Ellington in particular was unquenchable. That, coupled with a prodigious memory, made him a priceless resource to this Ellington researcher. Brooks befriended and gigged with numerous jazzmen, especially Ellingtonians. Kerr, Russell Procope and Sonny Greer formed a trio that played together during much of the 1970s.
John S. Wilson's 1974 New York Times profile of Brooks can be read here:
Brooks was a dear friend of 30 years, and I feel cheated out of many more years of friendship that should have been.
Sad news to break on Duke Ellington's birthday….
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