Every hometown has a hero, and in Philly there's no better candidate for the job than Mickey Roker. The drumming dean of Ortlieb's is a keen elder in the Philly jazz community; only Bootsie Barnes has schooled a comparable stable of talent. Roker's own career includes heavy lifting with the likes of Dizzy, Sonny, Horace and Herbie - along with fellow Philadelphians Lee Morgan and Shirley Scott.
This Thursday he salutes Charlie Parker, one of the few giants who got away (he died a few years before the drummer hit the scene). Over the weekend, it's bop of a more contemporary variety, as Roker's quartet welcomes tenorman Ralph Bowen - Rutgers University jazz head and one of the most underrated saxophonists around.
Bowen's new disc Soul Proprietor (Criss Cross) is a thinking-man's hard-bop manifesto. There's no telling what sort of sparks will fly when he and Roker dig in.
What is left to be said about Mickey ?? He's a legend to be sure. A treasure not just to Philly, but to the nation. There are damn few jazz musicians who can serve as role models to kids. Mickey can and does.
While his musicianship speaks (loudly) for itself, too few people realize what kind of human Mickey is. I've heard him tell dirty jokes (in a club) and use the clinical definitions for body parts. I used to see him with Dizzy when I was a college student in Montreal, and when I moved back to Philly I was SO honored to meet this cat.
The first time I sat in with him at Ortlieb's I was nervous as could be, but Mickey lets you know where the CHANGES are ! Not many drummers help like that (especially when you ain't exactly Charlie Parker) .. Mickey is a joy to play with, listen to, or trade jokes with. He's at Ortlieb's Jazz Haus most of the week, and if you're in Philly, DON'T MISS HIM !!!