Pete La Roca

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Pete La Roca
Birth namePeter Sims
Born(1938-04-07)April 7, 1938
Harlem, New York, United States
DiedNovember 20, 2012(2012-11-20) (aged 74)

Pete "La Roca" Sims (born Peter Sims; April 7, 1938 – November 20, 2012, known as Pete La Roca from 1957 until 1968)[1] was an American jazz drummer and attorney. Born and raised in Harlem by a pianist mother and a stepfather who played trumpet, he was introduced to jazz by his uncle Kenneth Bright, a major shareholder in Circle Records and the manager of rehearsal spaces above the Lafayette Theater. Sims studied percussion at the High School of Music and Art and at the City College of New York, where he played tympani in the CCNY Orchestra.[2] He adopted the name La Roca early in his musical career, when he played timbales for six years in Latin bands.[3] In the 1970s, during a hiatus from jazz performance, he resumed using his original surname. When he returned to jazz in the late 1970s, he usually inserted "La Roca" into his name in quotation marks to help audiences familiar with his early work identify him. He told The New York Times in 1982 that he did so only out of necessity:

I can't deny that I once played under the name La Roca, but I have to insist that my name is Peter Sims with La Roca in brackets or in quotes. For 16 or 17 years, when I have not been playing the music, people have known me as Sims....When I was 14 or 15, I thought ["La Roca"] was clever; right now, it's an embarrassment. I thought that it would be something that people would probably remember - boy, was I ever right on that one! I can't make my conversion.[4]

In 1957, Max Roach became aware of him while jamming at Birdland and recommended him to Sonny Rollins. As drummer of Rollins' trio on the afternoon set at the Village Vanguard on November 3 he became part of the important record A Night at the Village Vanguard. (Only one of five recorded tracks with La Roca was included on the original single LP release of the album). In 1959 he recorded with Jackie McLean (New Soil) and in a quartet with Tony Scott, Bill Evans and Jimmy Garrison. Besides Garrison he often joined with bassists who played in the Bill Evans Trio, especially Scott LaFaro and Steve Swallow, and also accompanied pianists like Steve Kuhn, Don Friedman and Paul Bley.

Between the end of the 1950s and 1968, he also played with Slide Hampton, the John Coltrane Quartet, Marian McPartland, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Mose Allison, and Charles Lloyd, among others. During this period, he led his own group and worked as the house drummer at the Jazz Workshop in Boston, Massachusetts.[5] He recorded two albums as a leader during the mid-1960s, Basra (Blue Note, 1965) and Turkish Women at the Bath (Douglas, 1967).

In 1968, with the market for acoustic jazz in decline, Sims decided to enroll in law school.[5] By this time he was already earning most of his income by driving a taxi cab in New York City, a job he held for five years during the 1960s.[4] Sims became a lawyer in the early 1970s, and was still practicing at the time of a 1997 radio interview with WNYC's Steve Sullivan. When his second album as leader, Turkish Women at the Bath, was released under Chick Corea's name without his consent, Sims filed and argued a lawsuit against Douglas Records, and the erroneously-labeled records were recalled.

He returned to jazz part-time in 1979, and recorded one new album as a leader, Swing Time (Blue Note, 1997).

He died in New York of lung cancer at the age of 74.[6]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Anamari

  • Anamari (Atlantic, 1964)

With Bill Barron

With Paul Bley

With Rocky Boyd

With Jaki Byard

With Sonny Clark

With Johnny Coles

With Ted Curson

With Art Farmer

With the Don Friedman Trio

With Slide Hampton

With Joe Henderson

With Freddie Hubbard

With the Steve Kuhn Trio

With Booker Little

With Charles Lloyd

With Jackie McLean

With Helen Merrill and Dick Katz

  • The Feeling Is Mutual (Milestone, 1967)

With J.R. Monterose

  • The Message (Jaro, 1960)

With Sonny Rollins

With George Russell

With Tony Scott

With the Paul Serrano Quintet


  1. ^ Jeff Tamarkin "Drummer & Composer Pete La Roca Dies at 74", Jazz Times, November 20, 2012
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians Archived August 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine at
  3. ^ Interview with José Francisco Tapiz for in 2004.
  4. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (October 15, 1982). "Lawyer-Drummer Makes a Case for His Day Gig". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 248. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  6. ^ "Pete La Roca, Top Post-Bop Jazz Drummer, Has Died". Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  7. ^ "Charles Lloyd - Live At Slugs'". Discogs. Retrieved October 24, 2017.

External links[edit]