Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 2:00pm to 7:00pm
Tune in to Jazz Profiles today, May 14, from 2:00-7:00 PM ET to hear Sid Gribetz present a five hour program featuring the music of Tina Brooks.
Brooks was a lyrical tenor saxophonist with a yearning, introspective, yet soulful sound. He attained a brief measure of notice on several Blue Note albums in the late 1950's and early 1960's but never achieved great fame and died young. However, he was well respected by his peers. Afficionados of jazz of this period recognized him as a major talent with a musical message that deserves a more lasting recognition.
Harold Floyd Brooks was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina on June 7, 1932, into a musical family. (His older brother David “Bubba” Brooks, also a saxophonist, was a mainstay in the jazz world for many years). In his youth, Harold was nicknamed Tina from his teeny, diminutive size. The family moved to the Bronx in 1944 when he was 12 years old, and Brooks was a Bronx-ite to stay.
He came of age after high school, playing in Latin and Rhythm and Blues bands, eventually gaining major professional experience in the touring groups of Amos Milburn and Lionel Hampton. By 1956 and 1957, under the tutorship and close friendship of modern jazz greats Benny Harris and Elmo Hope, Brooks was playing in the thriving Bronx jazz scene, in clubs such as the Blue Morocco, 845, and Freddie’s Bar, with friends such as Oliver Beener and Larry Gales.
Introduced to Blue Note Records executive Alfred Lion, Brooks was immediately thrust in to the big leagues on a Jimmy Smith record session. His extended saxophone solos on Smith’s “The Sermon” gained great notoriety, and Brooks was signed to the Blue Note label. He made tremendous contributions as a sideman with Freddie Hubbard (Open Sesame), Kenny Burrell (Blue Lights), and Jackie McLean (Jackie’s Bag).
In 1959 and 1960, Brooks also worked in theater, serving as an understudy in the cast of Jack Gelber’s legendary Off Broadway play “The Connection”, with live jazz music by Freddie Redd. As a result of this relationship, Brooks would record with Redd on some of his albums.
Blue Note eventually made four sessions with Tina Brooks as a leader of quintets, recording dynamic versions of American popular song standards along with lyrical and sophisticated original compositions, in association with band-mates such as Hubbard, McLean, Lee Morgan, and Sonny Clark. However, only one album, “True Blue”, would be released in his lifetime. Championed by critics and record executives such as Michael Cuscuna, his remaining albums would be released posthumously, as an early staple of Cuscuna’s connoisseur Mosaic label, and also on Blue Note.
Tina Brooks suffered from various health problems, as well as being saddled with the scourge of heroin addiction. He was not well enough to perform beyond his thirties, and he succumbed to kidney illness and the ravages of his drug use, dying on August 13, 1974 at the age of 42.