"Mickey Roker, a soulful and deeply propulsive drummer who carried a torch for literate hard-bop in the decades after its commercial peak, died on Monday in Philadelphia, where he was a local jazz institution. He was 84.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Debra Roker, who cited natural causes but noted that he had lung cancer and diabetes, among other health issues.
Though he was never a household name like Max Roach or Art Blakey, who were more than a decade his senior, Roker was held in high regard as a modern jazz drummer for more than 40 years. He’s probably most widely known for his nearly decade-long association, in the 1970s, with trumpeter and bebop paragon Dizzy Gillespie.
Roker can be heard on a handful of Gillespie albums from that era, including Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods, with Machito (1975), and Carter, Gillespie Inc., with saxophonist Benny Carter (1976). His entry in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz includes a glowing endorsement from Gillespie: ‘Once he sets a groove, whatever it is, you can go to Paris and come back and it's right there. You never have to worry about it.’
Roker also had a highly visible tenure with the Modern Jazz Quartet, which he joined in the early 1990s as a sub for, and then a successor to, its longtime drummer Connie Kay. Roker appears, anchoring a battery of guests, on A 40th Anniversary Celebration, released in ‘93. But his core contribution to the band was as a road warrior..."