Tina Brooks Biography

Harold Floyd Brooks, 7 June 1932, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA, d. 13 August 1974, New York City, New York, USA. Brooks acquired his sobriquet ‘Tina’ after his previous nickname ‘Teeny’. He studied C-melody, alto and tenor saxophones at school before turning professional in 1950. At first he played with R&B and local New York Latin bands, recording in 1951 with Sonny Thompson, but Brooks soon tired of the restrictions of section work and looked for opportunities to play jazz. He played with Lionel Hampton in early 1955, but his break came when the trumpeter Benny Harris coached his playing and introduced him to other jazz musicians. Harris was instrumental in bringing the young tenor player to the attention of Blue Note Records label boss Alfred Lion, who immediately hired Brooks to play on the mammoth Jimmy Smith session that produced his album The Sermon. Brooks’ playing was assured, showing that he had already assimilated the work of influences Lester Young and Sonny Rollins to create a style of his own. Between 1958 and 1961 Brooks appeared on a series of albums with leading players Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd, Kenny Burrell and Freddie Hubbard. He also recorded four sessions as leader, but at the time only one, True Blue (1960), was released.

After 1961, Brooks recorded no more. He continued to play in New York for a number of years but ill health and a drug problem finally led to his early death in 1974. His shyness and inability to succeed in the highly competitive world of the professional musician prevented Brooks from fully establishing himself as a leading saxophonist. It is only now, with all his albums issued, that Brooks can be seen as an influential and original player and composer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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