Tina Brooks: Back To The Tracks

Matt Marshall By

Sign in to view read count
Tina Brooks
Back To The Tracks
Blue Note / Music Matters
2009 (1985)

Although probably not the intention, Back To The Tracks appropriately labels saxophonist Tina Brooks' mode of operation during the 1960 Blue Note sessions that would produce this album. Going unreleased until Mosaic put it out in 1985 (the result of one of those head-shakingly dismissive or sad, number-crunching decisions seemingly so common in Blue Note's history), the record spins on the proven rails of hard bop construction. Three of the five tunes follow a pattern of theme/sax solo/trumpet solo/piano solo/theme. Although the ballad standard "For Heaven's Sake" opens with Kenny Drew's piano and leaves Brooks to handle the melody alone. And "Street Singer," an outtake from Jackie McLean's Jackie's Bag (Blue Note, 1960) sessions, adds slots in the solo rotation for McLean's alto sax and Paul Chambers' bass.

To be sure, such predictable solo rounds are far from unheard of, but the formula may have accounted, at least in part, for Blue Note's decision to leave the album in the can. After the Mosaic release, the album did eventually appear on CD and is currently available as a CD import and a 33-1/3-rpm mono LP. But thankfully, Music Matters has chosen to include it as part of its 45-rpm vinyl reissue program (with 45-rpm necessitating a two-disc format). For not only does the musicianship overcome what might seem a staid musical concept, it also brings to light (or, more precisely, to sound) a fabulous "lost" work by a musician who recorded and lived for far too brief a period (born in 1932, Brooks died in 1974).

Three of the album's tunes are Brooks originals. They are based on simple, repetitive passages in the hard bop mode—a modernist form that had no qualms broadcasting itself as a soloist's jungle gym—and contain all the power of Brooks' fabulous and similarly structured numbers on True Blue (Blue Note, 1960). Brooks has a light, playful sound on most of the pieces on Back To The Tracks. His tone courses rounded hills and valleys that usually lead into sharper bop peaks with slashing angles. Shying away from the one-note R&B squawks fired at times on True Blue, Brooks' playing here is a bit more relaxed and soulful, especially on "Street Singer" and "For Heaven's Sake," the latter finding the saxophonist swooning with a deep, reedy timbre.

Trumpeter Blue Mitchell, a trusty sideman who gained lesser fame up-front, largely follows Brooks' lead, fashioning bright, metal statements or antagonistic growls that echo the saxophonist's moods. The reliable Drew, a hard bop pianist perhaps best known for his work on John Coltrane's Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957), wields a light yet confident touch in tapping out quick, hard-swinging solos from the stereo's "center channel." His harmonic solo on "For Heaven's Sake" employs classical overlays, producing a desperate yearning effect in front of Paul Chambers' dipping bass. The excellent Chambers is afforded a brief moment in the sun near the close of "Street Singer," a tune he transforms with nice, muddy lines. (Again, it is notable that the bassist was given solo light only on the McLean-led track.) Drummer Art Taylor never emerges from the rear. But his percussive support is solid throughout and he comes on with a strong, varied attack on the exotic closer "The Ruby And The Pearl."

The stereo sound of this vinyl reissue is impeccable. Play it next to the True Blue CD and you'll hear the difference—a warm, live tone that sacrifices none of the stereo separation nor chisels it into a series of conjoined instrumental cubicles; the group dynamic is never lost. You can almost smell the smoke swirling up from a cigarette abandoned in an ashtray at the Van Gelder Studio. The year is 1960 and the music of an extremely talented young saxophonist is blowing with all the promise of a bright future.

Tracks: Disc 1: Back To The Tracks; Street Singer. Disc 2: The Blues and I; For Heavens Sake; The Ruby And The Pearl.

Personnel: Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Tina Brooks, tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylor, drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

Related Video


More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Thomas Stronen: Time Is A Blind Guide" Extended Analysis Thomas Stronen: Time Is A Blind Guide
by John Kelman
Published: March 27, 2016
Read "Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap" Extended Analysis Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "Nik Bartsch's Mobile: Continuum" Extended Analysis Nik Bartsch's Mobile: Continuum
by John Kelman
Published: April 15, 2016
Read "U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition" Extended Analysis U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition
by John Kelman
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu" Extended Analysis Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: May 22, 2016
Read "Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon" Extended Analysis Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon
by Phil Barnes
Published: April 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!