Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Maroon, Hillary (Hillary Marcel Brooks)

Maroon, Hillary [Hillary Marcel Brooks], vocalist, multi-instrumentalist; b. Philadelphia, PA, 7 April 1968.

She grew up in a small Hudson Valley town, Red Hook, NY, travelling some throughout the Northeast with her brother (J Why, born Jeremy Brooks, 1969) and her parents, who loved international folk dancing. Hillary's first sang with her elementary school chorus. After years of asking for a piano, Hillary's African American father (William Brooks, 1921-1981) and European Jewish American mother (Marcia Brooks, nee Hartwig, 1929-1995) told her at 12 that if she stuck to clarinet lessons for a year, she could have a piano. At 13, she began classical piano lessons, but quit after a year, teaching herself piano, guitar and bass by ear and from her late father's '30s and '40s era sheet music. Though Hillary played in her band teacher's swing combo, receiving little guidance, she found the experience stressful and the material uninspiring. She began writing rock songs at 17, playing in bands in high school and college with drummer brother J. It was when she first tasted city living while attending Boston University (BS in communications research, 1993) that she finally heard a lot of jazz (and indie rock). In 1990, she followed her brother to San Francisco, where her half-sister Pamela Z (b. Pamela Brooks, 1956), a new music performer/composer and audio artist, is based. There, Hillary worked in an original improvisatory context for the first time, composing, singing and playing bass and clarinet with Nebuchadnezzar Pehz Dispenser (1990-1993), an avant jazz/rock group that included poet Jeff Conant, guitarist Dan McCoy and J Why on drums. She also played bass and clarinet for Pamela Z's group the Qube Chix. For a few years, her civil rights activism and non-profit jobs eclipsed her performing and writing, but Hillary re-evaluated and began studying jazz piano for the first time. In 1997, she committed herself fully to music, moving to Los Angeles to study jazz piano with David Roitstein and jazz composition with Wadada Leo Smit h at California Institute for the Arts (MFA 2000). Hillary is now based in New York City, where she sings with the rock and M-BASE influenced jazz group Maroon, co-led with pianist Benny Lackner. They did a short tour of Southern California (from Santa Barbara to San Diego) in 2002. Recently, Maroon began a Jazz Against War benefit concert series, organizing performers such as Marc Ribot, Sex Mob, Ralph Alessi and Vijay Iyer to raise money for peace activists. Hillary has also performed with Harris Eisenstadt, Seth Misterka and others and studied voice with Jacqueline Presti. She is a member of Caramelize, a new rock band.

Dice: A Collection of Contemporary Women Composers (one track, "The Qube Chix," on this compilation, 1993); Clarinet Several original jazz tracks on studio recordings issued by California Institute of the Arts (1998-2000); Maroon: Migratory (2001); EggNoggin: Jack Boston (2002); Caramelize: Thank You, Uncle Tom (2003)
Unissued recordings:
Videos of several Bay Area performances in a variety of contexts (1992-1996); Nebuchadnezzar Pehz Dispenser: demos (1991-1995); Maroon: many unissued live recordings including players such as Ed Schuller and Pheeroan akLaff.

Radio broadcasts:
Maroon - interviews on college and public radio, 2002.

JazzReview.com interview 'Jazz Band Maroon Releases Debut CD "Migratory"' Artist Interview by: Beatrice S. Richardson. http://www.jazzreview.com/articledetails.cfm?ID=769
Dan McClenaghan's AllAboutJazz.com review of Migratory (5/2002). http://www.allaboutjazz.com/reviews/r0502_059.htm

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