Anybody who knows Jazz and Jazz drumming knows Roger Humphries. Roger is a world-class drummer who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has made his home there and raised a beautiful family there, but Roger is a resident of the world when it comes to music.
Son of Mary E. and Lawrence G. Humphries, Roger is the youngest of ten children. He began school at an early age, due to his exceptional talent on the drums. Roger just turned four when his parents were asked is he could perform a Christmas Concert with the Mary J. Cowley Band, directed by Christine Shoda. From there, he performed for the Ceteran Hospital Amateur Hour. Roger won first prize nine out of ten times everywhere he played. With much surprise, when Roger was 4 1/2 he sat in with the Tab Smith Big Band. His Uncle Frank Humphries was working with the band along with Savannah Churchill.
After graduating from Cowley, Roger went to Latimer Jr. High and continued to study with Miss Shoda. The North Side boy began playing professionally at the age of fourteen. He led his own group at Carnegie Music Hall when just sixteen. "I've had a love for music as long as I can remember," Roger said. In fact, he began playing drums at three years old. He was encouraged by his older brothers Lawrence Jr. and Norman who were musicians at that time. Additionally, Roger's son Roger Jr. and Norman's son Gregory have followed in their footsteps as professional drummers. Roger always gives special thanks for the encouragement, inspiration and support of his wife Regina, and children Michele, Roger Jr., Denise, Monica; and his grandchildren LaShawna, Adrian, and Brytney, and the rest of his entire family." Next, Humphries attended Allegheny High School where he played in the band, and All-City Orchestra.
In August of 1962 began Roger's first major road job. He joined Stanley Turrentine (also from Pittsburgh) and Shirley Scott at the Hurricane in the Hill, Pittsburgh. As Roger put it, "They were really together. I have never played in a trio that was so together with dynamics. It was really a pleasure to work with them."
Roger is rated by music critics as one of the most exciting percussionists in the business. He has provided the rhythmic beat for such greats as Ray Charles, Horace Silver, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, and the list of great musicians goes on and on and on..
In 1964 Roger went to New York to join the Horace Silver Quintet. While with Silver, he toured Europe twice and appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival, There, he was interview by renowned jazz writer, Leonard Feather. A summary of that interview is included in the Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties.
Talking about working with Horace Silver Roger says "It was a beautiful experience working with the group. It gave me an opportunity to 'stretch out' a little and play with a solid rhythm section". Shortly after leaving Silver, Humphries began working with Ray Charles. This was his first experience with a Big Band. While with Charles, he toured Europe and various cities throughout this country. Playing at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and the Newport Jazz Festival were among the engagements with Ray Charles that Roger recalls with nostalgia.
With various groups, Roger Humphries has performed at Carnegie Music Hall, the Village Gate and the Apollo Theatre in New York. He has also played at the Bohemian Caverns and Shelly Manne's Manhole in Los Angeles; the Penthouse in Seattle, Wash.; Pep's Lounge and Showboat, Philadelphia; the Jazz Workshop, Boston; Ronny Scott's in London, and many other places. One of the most fascinating aspects of Roger's life is the number of extremely talented musicians he has had the opportunity to perform with. He has played with such well known jazz artists as: Lee Morgan, Grant Green, Billy Taylor, Bill Doggett, Benny Green, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Billy Preston, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack McDuff, Gene Harris, George Harris, George Benson, John Faddis, Slide Hampton, Johnny Griffin, Herbie Mann, Randy Brecker, Joe Williams, Milt Jackson and Jimmy Witherspoon. In Pittsburgh, Roger has performed with Nathan Davis, Frank Cunimondo, Pete Henderson, Dwayne Dolphin, and all the other local greats too numerous to mention. Finally, we cannot forget his steady work with Horace Silver, Ray Charles, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott. Even those with little knowledge of jazz can see the tremendous accomplishments of the musically boundless Humphries.
After playing with various groups around the country, ace drummer Roger Humphries decided to organize his own group in 1972 which he calls R H Factor and in 1996 he assembled Roger Humphries' Big Band. Roger gives special thanks to Dr. Harry Clark, principal of The Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) who has allowed him to have such a beautiful experience teaching the kids at the school, and also to Dr. Nathan Davis who gave him an opportunity to teach and shares lives with students at the University of Pittsburgh. Roger has influenced the careers of a number of his students and musicians also through participation in a number of clinics such as the, Slippery Rock University Summer Jazz workshop, Mellon Jazz Masters Class and Concerts and the teaching goes on especially on the stage.
In January of 1980, Roger toured Europe with organist "Groove" Holmes and tenor saxophonist Willis Jackson. "It was musically a terrific tour. We crossed France, Spain, and Holland. We also recorded an album with the Black and Blue Record Company," Roger commented.