Big, Easy, Body-Melting Vibes
Big, Easy, Body-Melting Vibes
Oct 3, 2022
Charles Brooks, D.M.A.
As promised, each article I’ll direct your gaze towards an artist worth checking out, and then I’ll tell you all about why they’re worth it. Maybe they’re hip and chic, just like you. Maybe they’ve got some funky, groovy vibes that resonate so loudly, you simply can’t afford to pass on hearing more about him/her/them. Or, maybe they have a super-cool ability to melt your face off with one bitchin’ musical experience that’ll leave you reeling for days.
For this first article, I do not disappoint. (And if I do, then by all means send me an email and let me know so we can rap about it.) I bring you more than just a musician. I bring you a unique body-melting experience that clings to you like static and leaves one hell of a lasting impression.
My people, meet Dr. Charles Brooks, a multi-talented, classically trained professional jazz vibraphonist, percussionist, hand drummer, pianist, clinician, composer, and educator.
Hold up. A what?
A vibraphone? What the hell is that?
Here’s the easy answer: think xylophone, only bigger, more octaves, and with pedals, like a piano. Remember NBC’s former tone that played on TV between your favorite primetime shows … ding dang dong … that’s a vibraphone. You with me? Cool.
The vibraphone itself is a unique instrument for many reasons, one being because it’s not that widely known outside of the professional music community, and secondly because of its main special feature: a set of small, electrically operated fans that sit above the resonators and below the bars, or keys, of the instrument. This positioning allows for a smooth vibrato, or pulsating change of pitch, effect by rapidly closing and opening the resonators.
Still with me?
For those of you who are music lovers and not players, resonators are the tubes placed underneath the tone bars (i.e., keys) through which the vibrations travel. What makes Brooks’ sound equally unique, if not more, is his method of running the vibes through effects pedals, and that, my friends, is where this bitchin’ musical experience begins, if I do say so myself.
“Running the vibes through these pedals provides added texture to its distinctive sound. [The pedals] roll out those rich vibraphone tones to listeners in waves with multi-dimensional effects that leave quite an impression. And that’s what I try to do when I play music—give listeners an unforgettable experience through a sound that imprints upon them in some way,” said Brooks.
And imprint upon you, it will.
Cases in point: check out the livestreams of his 2017 Pink Floyd tribute show (https://www.periscope.tv/theCBDMA/1dRJZAYnrdaGB) and his 2022 Black History Month Jimi Hendrix tribute show (https://youtu.be/0R2OK689L2U). Or, stroll on over to his YouTube channel and check out his smooth jazz vibes from this year’s W.C. Handy Festival (https://youtu.be/_ibe3G-X8Uk). But definitely after that, you’ll wanna peruse through any or all of his Friday Night Vibes shows, which feature both originals and covers. Selections of FNV shows are available on YouTube, and all FNV shows in their entirety are available for your pleasure at www.TheCharlesBrooks.com/friday-night-vibes.
When COVID locked us all down with nothing to do but, I don’t know, be with ourselves without a social construct and learn to communicate and self-entertain, Brooks started live streaming a one-hour solo vibraphone concert (often with various hand drums and drum set) every Friday night
“I knew people were going stir crazy being stuck at home—especially those who enjoy live music. When there is no live music and everything’s locked down, it leaves a gaping hole in people’s lives. So, I started doing FNV to help music lovers and listeners unwind and disconnect from their stress so they could feel somewhat reconnected to music … to themselves, in a sense,” said Brooks.
You’ll definitely want to set yourself an atmosphere before settling into any of these concerts. Relax, get comfy, turn the lights down, grab a drink, get mellow, then get lost in the waves that come rolling out at you. Let the energy of sound and the magic of music take you wherever they go. Get lost, babies. That’s what it’s about. We have to have a way to check out of our physical reality from time to time—in healthy ways, of course—and what better way to do that than with music? Let its healing power flow all through your sexy little body and do what it’s meant to: create, inspire, and impress an experience upon your being.
After viewing one of his shows, you’ll understand what I mean by “experience.” Brooks is known for his personalized high-energy performances, not to mention his wildly innovative improv talents and the speed at which he is able to play. He uses four mallets and often moves so fast up and down the face of the vibes it’ll make your head spin.
Like a record. Right ‘round, baby. Right ‘round.
It is truly a spectacular, unforgettable experience.
And Brooks doesn’t just stick to jazz tunes, no. He has an ever-expanding repertoire that includes rock, blues, soul, and funk genres, as well as his own original tunes. He currently has four albums out, and they’re all available on his website and most streaming platforms. For each album, he composed, performed, recorded, mixed, and mastered everything himself.
His albums range from a meditative hand drum experience inspired by martial arts forms he has studied over the course of his life, to a meditation and relaxation album for stress relief, to albums with a mix of jazz, blues, funk, and soul. Each of his tunes reflect on a special person, time, or experience in his life.
Brooks isn’t just a musician though. He’s also a professional audio engineer and educator (with a doctorate from good ‘ole LSU (Geaux Tigers)) with over 30 years’ experience. And in 2021, after nearly 26 years in Baton Rouge as a music and audio educator, mentor, and performing musician within the Baton Rouge and South Louisiana community, he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Audio Engineering at the University of North Alabama in their department of entertainment industry.
Since settling up in the Shoals area, he has returned to his role of freelancing as a studio musician with numerous musical capabilities at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Brooks can be heard playing the vibraphone on Southern Retro Soul artists Bonneville’s recent self-titled album, currently out now, and playing the steel drum on Nashville’s Outlaw Country recording artist Rickie Joe Wilson’s song “Reggae Redneck,” also recently released.
So, what are you still doing reading this article? Go! Go listen! Go watch! Go experience!
For further info on Dr. Brooks, his music, upcoming shows, and/or his audio program, visit www.TheCharlesBrooks.com, Facebook @TheCharlesBrooksMusic, Instagram @Cbreezington, and YouTube @MFCharlieB73.
*All photos by Rachel Neal Pictures*