Back to the Tracks

COMPOSERS: Tina Brooks
LABELS: Blue Note
PERFORMER: Tina Brooks (ts); Blue Mitchell (t); Jackie McLean (as); Kenny Drew (p); Paul Chambers (b); Art Taylor (d)


Hard-bop can be a terrible bore in the hands of today’s twenty-somethings, but don’t blame Tina Brooks. When he cut Back to the Tracks in 1960, the music sounded fresh and new. The trouble is, during the last 40 years hard bop has been done to death in the same way that New Orleans jazz had by the time Charlie Parker emerged on the scene. And while the music of the New Orleans masters still has much charm, the music of copyists post-Jelly Roll does not.

The same goes for the music of the hard-bop masters. The reason is that the masters were playing themselves, rather than copying licks from forty- year-old recordings. This album, scheduled for release in 1961, advertised by Blue Note, somehow never made it to the shops. Its first release was on The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Tina Brooks (Mosaic 106) a couple of years back. This is its first appearance on CD and it numbers among the most compelling hard bop albums of all time.


The trumpet/tenor front line (McLean is on only one track), haloed by a little echo (the speciality of house engineer Rudy Van Gelder) and the transparency of the rhythm section, every instrument clearly audible but meshing into something greater than the sum of their component parts, is the epitome of the much fabled Blue Note sound. This is the real thing, with soloists who speak from life’s experiences rather than the practice rooms of middle-class suburbia. Stuart Nicholson