August 19, 2017

Tina Brooks - True Blue (1960)

Tina Brooks is a lesser-known Blue Note name whose only album as a leader--for some time--was True Blue, but thankfully a few albums were released from the vaults decades later. Brooks is under-appreciated, but not underrated since the few people who seek out his music are always satisfied. I don't think he plays at the same level of Messengers-era Wayne Shorter, but I wouldn't be dismissive of someone who thought otherwise. On the other hand, Brooks is undoubtedly several notches above Blue Note's usual second-tier tenors like Hank Mobley and George Coleman. True Blue is a great session featuring a lot of well-felt rhythms and melodies and is one of my favorites from the label. That said, most of this album's greatness pulls solely from style. I'm not implying there's an aesthetic illusion or gimmick involved, but instead of mind-blowing grooves and explosive solos, Brooks and the band executes the basics of small-group bop to put the listener in a feel-good mood. True Blue also displays one of the best mixes in engineer Rudy Van Gelder's long list of recording achievements--on the level of Hank Mobley's Soul Station. The soundstage is open and the instruments are very clear, but he maintains the comfy feeling in which these minor blues pieces excel. Also like Soul Station, True Blue's best asset is the rhythm section. There aren't many solos coming from those guys, which stinks, but they're the ones putting most of the feeling into this album. Freddie Hubbard is the other horn for this session. His debut album--also from 1960--features Tina Brooks, so most people checking out this album have probably heard of Brooks from that record. It should go without saying that if you enjoyed Open Sesame, you should check this out for more of the same goodness. Freddie Hubbard isn't bad, nor is he one of my favorites--his grumbly sound and ornamentations throw me off more often than not. I believe this could have been a more memorable date for me if the trumpet player was either Lee Morgan or Blue Mitchell. The last bit is just a personal problem of mine, but if you're a fan of Hubbard then this album will be one of your all-time favorites. One of the finest subdued hard-bop sessions in Blue Notes catalog that should be heard by every jazz fan.


True Blue