Charles Brooks Holds Stevie Wonder Tribute for Black History Month

On Monday, Feb. 27, in The Mane Room at the University of North Alabama, local jazz vibraphonist, percussionist, and entertainment-industry educator Charles Brooks, DMA is back with his group The Charles Brooks Collective to feature an eclectic celebration of the music of Black Americans in this year’s musical tribute to Stevie Wonder.

Last year, Brooks featured a Jimi Hendrix tribute, and the show offered a listening experience so intricate and wild, it pretty much blew the eyebrows right off everyone’s face. It was nothing short of musically outstanding, and it left those in attendance wanting more. This year’s tribute promises to raise the bar.

“We’ll be presenting multiple styles of music in various formats based on Stevie Wonder’s compositional process,” says Brooks. “For example, most people don’t know he is really a jazzer by nature, because he sold millions of Pop albums. What he did was write his tunes in a way that made them accessible to Pop audiences. He bridged a gap not a lot of artists can bridge.”

Brooks further explains how, when you break them down, all of Wonder’s songs are really just jazz tunes with world influence.

“You can hear it in the complexity of his chord structures, his melodic development in every tune, his scat solos … all of his songs are jazz influenced, even the reggae and Latin tunes.”

But, because they’re in a pop setting, the songs aren’t accentuated the way they normally would be (i.e., with their worldly influence). For example, did you know the song “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” actually has its roots in Latin music? Because it does, but if you’re just listening to the song as a music lover, you’ll hear a Pop tune … unless you’re a seasoned musician with an educated ear for those types of things. 

This year’s tribute will allow the Collective to take these unaccentuated influences in Wonder’s tunes and really hone in on them. Brooks says they’ll be leaning deep into the roots of the music rather than focusing on the Pop side of things. 

“We’ll definitely be paying homage to salsa players, so people can expect to hear things like a Latin break in the chorus of a certain song. [Wonder’s] tune ‘Master Blaster’—colloquially known as ‘Jammin’—is really a reggae song, so for that one you’ll feel the reggae beat and hear Justin’s snare drum soaked in delay.” 

Essentially, The Charles Brooks Collective is just extracting the jazz out of Stevie’s Pop tunes and playing it for audiences to come listen, appreciate, and pay homage to the wonderous talent that is Stevie Wonder. They’ll be gettin’ down on popular tunes like “Lately,” “Superstition,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” to name a few. There’s certainly more beyond those in store, too.

“It’s something everyone can come to and enjoy,” adds Brooks. 

And enjoy you guys will, especially the drum talk. Lots and lots of cleverly improvised drum talk. It’s teasing and exciting … full of rhythmic energy that’ll give you the chills. Brooks says there will be plenty of that to round out the show, because if there’s one thing we all know about jazz, it’s that it’s full of improv. 

“In jazz, improv is key, so naturally it will be a big part of the show,” Brooks mentions. “People can expect to hear every style of music on Earth written by a Black artist.”

The Charles Brooks Collective consists of Shoals-area studio musician and local drummer Justin Holder on drum set, SnO DAe bassist Wes Lloyd on electric bass, and UNA audio engineering professor Dr. Charles Brooks on the jazz vibraphone, synthesizers, and hand drums.  

The Stevie Wonder Jazz Tribute happens Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in The Mane Room at UNA. The show is free and open to the public. All music listeners and lovers are welcome.

For further information on Charles Brooks, DMA and the Stevie Wonder Tribute Show, hop on over to the Facebook Events Page. For more on Charles Brooks and his collective, visit