Tina Brooks: Forgotten tenor saxophonist in life, revered by connoisseurs in death.

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Tina Brooks: Forgotten tenor saxophonist in life, revered by connoisseurs in death.

Tina Brooks. Tina, as in tiny or teeny because of his small size and gentle, shy nature. A name hardly known, yet up there with the best tenor saxophonists of the Golden Age of Jazz music. Tina Brooks belongs in that top tier club that had in its ranks people like John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Johnny Griffin, Sam Rivers, George Coleman and Sonny Rollins. 


He has only four known records where he was the leader, and a fifth where he shared the honour with Jackie McLean, the famous alto saxophonist. He was a sideman on many records where his tenor sax was pivotal in shaping them into outstanding performances.  


All his records are of superior musicianship. All belong on a Jazz music lover’s shelf. 


Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA on June 7, 1932, Harold Floyd Brooks had a very brief career as a professional recording musician before heroin took its tall. His first recording as leader was in 1958. His known final recording was in 1961. He then fell off the scene – literally – and was penniless, dissipated and in despair by the end of that decade. 


Brooks died in New York City on August 13, 1974.  Only one of his records as leader – True Blue -  was released in his lifetime. It was Michael Cuscuna and Charlie Laurie of Mosaic Records that brought Brooks back to life when they released The Complete Blue Note Recordings of the Tina Brooks Quintets in 1986. This numbered, limited edition set is a masterpiece of documentation, sound and, above all, musicianship. This was my introduction to Tina Brooks and, 35 years later, his music remains special and fresh. Very highly recommended.



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