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Tina Brooks Quintet: The Complete Recordings

Chris May By

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Tina Brooks Quintet: The Complete Recordings
Mosaic Records' spring 2020 release The Complete Hank Mobley Blue Note Sessions 1963-70, the second of the label's box sets devoted to the copiously recorded (and rightly so) Hank Mobley, prompts thoughts of another of Blue Note's singular hard-bop tenor saxophone stylists. Unlike Mobley, Tina Brooks was woefully under-recorded, making just four albums under his own name. But like Mobley, Brooks had an instantly recognisable sound, was a spellbinding soloist and was also a gifted composer. In addition to his own sessions, he made important contributions, as player and composer, to Blue Note albums by Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell and Jackie McLean.

Why then did Brooks record just four albums for Blue Note, only one of which, 1960's True Blue, was released during his lifetime? The answer, in a word, is heroin. Unlike Mobley, a mostly functioning addict who periodically cleaned up his act, Brooks was a slave to the drug. By all accounts a sweet, shy man, he was also notoriously unreliable and, as a consequence, unbankable, which probably explains why Blue Note never got behind him. Brooks' final appearance in a recording studio was in early 1961. He died penniless and neglected thirteen years later, leaving behind a small but truly stellar corpus of work.

Brooks' posthumous Blue Note album releases were Minor Move (recorded 1958, released 1980), Back To The Tracks (recorded 1960, released 1990) and The Waiting Game (recorded 1961, released 1999). These three albums, plus True Blue, were released as a Mosaic vinyl set in 1985. The Phono collection under consideration here is a 24-bit remastered 2xCD which also contains all four albums. Like the Mosaic set, it lacks the two alternate takes from True Blue included on Blue Note's Rudy Van Gelder CD edition. The Phono release has great sound and is the easiest way of acquiring all four albums, of which only True Blue is readily available.

It would be wonderful if Blue Note or Mosaic (or anyone else granted access to the Blue Note tape library) put together a CD collection of Brooks' issued albums, plus the Hubbard, Smith, Burrell and McLean tracks featuring him as a soloist, plus more alternate takes—both from Brooks' sideman albums and from his own sessions, for there surely must be others in the library in addition to the two known True Blue alternates. For good measure, the collection could also include Music From The Connection, recorded and released under Howard McGhee's name on the Felsted label in 1960, and featuring Brooks, who in 1959 had been McLean's understudy in the stage play of the same name. Well, you can dream.

Track Listing

CD1: Nutville; The Way You Look Tonight; Star Eyes; Minor Move; Everything Happens To Me; Good Old Soul; Up Tight’s Creek; Theme For Doris; Miss Hazel; True Blue; Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You. CD2: Back To The Tracks; Street Singer; The Blues And I; For Heaven’s Sake; The Ruby And The Pearl; Talkin’ About; One For Myrtle; Dhyana; David The King; Stranger In Paradise; The Waiting Game.

Personnel

Tina Brooks: saxophone, tenor; Lee Morgan: trumpet; Freddie Hubbard: trumpet; Blue Mitchell: trumpet; Johnny Coles: trumpet; Jackie McLean: saxophone, alto; Sonny Clark: piano; Duke Jordan: piano; Kenny Drew: piano; Doug Watkins: bass; Sam Jones: bass; Paul Chambers: bass, acoustic; Wilbur Ware: bass, acoustic; Art Blakey: drums; Art Taylor: drums; Philly Joe Jones: drums.

Album information

Title: The Complete Recordings | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Phono

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