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Harvey and Bonnie Brooks present a musical market

Claire C. Laurence/A rizona Daily Wildcat
Harvey Brooks renowned bassist jams out at the 17th Street Market as part of a newly added music section. The 17th Street Market is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 25, 2005
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On the surface, Harvey and Bonnie Brooks appear to be your average married couple. They tend to discuss the things that married couples do, like finances, recipes and the time Miles Davis teasingly told Harvey to take a hike during his first day of work on Bitches Brew.

"I walk into the control room," Harvey said. "And Miles says to me 'Hey, you fat motherfucker, what are you doing here?'"

OK, so Harvey and Bonnie Brooks are not quite your average married couple. Their remarkable resumes speak for themselves. Harvey formed the seminal folk-rock-soul group The Electric Flag with big-time players like Mike Bloomfield (The Butterfield Blues Band) and Buddy Miles (Hendrix, Santana). He also managed to fit in time to handle bass duties on classic albums like Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and The Doors' The Soft Parade, as well as Miles' seminal album, which is notable for being one of the first to mesh rock and jazz into a wholly original sound.

"The session was incredible," Harvey said. "We went into the studio and Miles said, 'Well, this song is going to be a C7 sound' and that was it. We went from there, Bitches Brew."

Harvey's musical career started at a young age. While playing bass in a club in Manhattan, a legend came calling. "I was a young musician in New York, about 19 or 20," Harvey said. "And I got a call to play on Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited' and things just took off from there."

Harvey's credits include scoring the soundtrack to "The Trip," a precursor to "Easy Rider" written by Jack Nicholson, starring Peter Fonda and directed by B-movie legend Roger Corman, and performing with buddy Jimi Hendrix. Harvey's impressive track record certainly has not inflated his ego as he calmly relays the invaluable experience and personal strength gained from working with such legends.

"It's great. You learn a lot and travel in a pretty exciting circle," Harvey said. "In the '60s there was a lot of stuff going on, and the fact that I'm here attests to my own strength of character."

Meanwhile, Bonnie is no slacker with an array of impressive jobs to her credit. She worked extensively in the entertainment industry, doing everything from media relations to event promotions for heavy-hitting companies like HBO, CBS and Random House.

However, what currently interests the two is their new endeavor with the 17th Street Market. The locally renowned and respected market, tucked in the industrial area of downtown Tucson, is expanding thanks in part to the efforts of Harvey and Bonnie.

The store is already a one-stop shopping experience for those seeking everything from silverware to fresh fish and produce. Now, Harvey and Bonnie have incorporated music as the latest addition to the menu.

"Basically, we started bringing in CDs to add to the atmosphere of the store," Harvey said. "We started with the Putumayo line, which is international music from all different countries, and we've incorporated that in the products we have, which come from Asia, France, Britain, all over the world, really."

Harvey's and Bonnie's idea of incorporating music has been well received by store owner Tom Kusian, who plays guitar with Harvey in his spare time when not overseeing the fresh arrivals that come to the market every day around 4 a.m.

"Incorporating music is a little outside the box thinking," Tom said. "But that's what we pride ourselves on. So, it's just a matter of when people come into the store and are shopping for one thing, it doesn't mean that if you have something else out of the ordinary they won't be interested. So, we're handling CDs as far as music, and we're excited for the potential. If you need guitar strings and you're here shopping for lettuce, buy some sorts of instruments."

Included in that list, aside from the traditional guitar and bass fare, will be more nontraditional instruments from all over the world.

"We're researching instruments from China, Japan, the Middle East, Africa," Harvey said. "We're just trying to investigate it all and trying to find some people who can enlighten us."

However, the couple's journey from the glamour of the East Coast entertainment industry to the desert haven of the 17th Street Market almost didn't happened.

"We decided we could sell the house in Westport (Conn.) and move to Manhattan," Bonnie said. "I was ready to sign on the dotted line, but Harvey suggested we go to dinner and talk about it. And he told me, 'You're going to hate it, it's a small space, let's try something different.' Our youngest daughter suggested we check out Tucson, so we came out, rented a place and within six months we bought a house."

After the move Harvey searched the town for people to play music with. The wheels started in motion when local drummer Larry Cobb suggested Harvey check out the guitar playing of local market-owner Tom Kusian.

"Harvey and Tom started playing and about a year ago Tom thought it would be neat if we started putting some of the product from the store on our Web site," Bonnie said. "So, a year ago we started doing Web site stuff for the market, and the evolution of their musical partnership led to Tom's decision to include music in the store."

From those grassroots beginnings, the idea of transforming the 17th Street Market into a unique and unclassifiable shopping experience took form.

"I mentioned to Tom about how much fun it would be to create a hub where you get your music, pick up your food, get your gifts, learn something about cultures and at the same time, if you want, learn something like how to play a flute," Bonnie said. "Because there is no real hub in Tucson, we'd love to create a place where you can do shopping and meet people from all over the world and share all these different cultures."

Tom jumped at the idea, having been involved in the market business for generations. His family originally owned a market next to the Rialto Theatre, and he enjoys carrying on the tradition in his own way, which includes "outside the box thinking" and unbeatable prices.

"What we offer is that students can come in and get a lot for their money," Bonnie said. "In doing the newsletters, I would love to get people writing stories or things they think can be incorporated, like recipes or events going on in town. If the student population thinks it's important, they can get it in there. Maybe down the road we'll get to the point where we can have local musicians play in the store on a Saturday."

With everything the market has in store, it is still newer and relatively unknown to the greater Tucson population. However, with its burgeoning incorporation of music and local cultural events, the future could not look brighter.

"It's a great beginning," Bonnie said. "The hardest thing about it is it's not on the beaten path. You're not going to walk down Fourth Avenue and find it, so in that way it's a hidden treasure."

The 17th Street Market is located at 840 E. 17th St. and open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For directions call 520-792-2588. For online purchasing, visit

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