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Tina Brooks’ The Waiting Game Worth The Wait For Blue Note Tone Poet Vinyl

I bought this album — The Waiting Game by Tina Brooks — purely on its reputation. I’d read numerous favorable “now playing” posts by fans on social media. And, a local store owner where I enjoy shopping for new music recommended it highly.I remembered seeing Tina’s name on some other album credits, but I’d had never heard his own music. 

So, this was a genuine blind buy on trust! And I am not disappointed. 

It turns out that part of the reason I hadn’t seen many of Tina Brooks’ albums around out in the wilds of collecting is (a) only one album was released in his lifetime and (b) most of the others were released after he passed away in 1974. I can only imagine the circumstances that would keep a label from releasing beautiful recordings like this (I do know he had addictions which plagued his career)

Its a sad story no doubt.  But at least his music is getting the attention it deserved all along. Tracking through Discogs, it seems The Waiting Game first started appearing on CD in the late ‘90s in Japan. This seems to be the first appearance of the album on vinyl and if that is the case, getting the Tone Poet treatment is a great way for it to come out into the spotlight. 

Effectively beginning at the end, my first acquisition of a Tina Brooks album is actually his last recording from 1961!  The Waiting Game is a wonderful session supported by no less than the great Kenny Drew on piano and Philly Joe Jones on drums.  

True to the Tone Poet series, the quality of this release is outstanding, a beautifully quiet, well-centered, dark black vinyl 180-gram pressing made at RTI and mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio.  

The fidelity on The Waiting Game belies the notion that this recording is just over 60 years old! 

Beyond Tina’s passionate saxophone playing and colorful soloing, the thing that is getting me hooked is his songwriting.  There is a very strong sense of melody on The Waiting Game.  Compositions like “Dhyana” feel like they could have been on an early ‘60s Coltrane album or perhaps even a Miles Davis album from the ‘50s. Even the cover of the classic “Stranger In Paradise” avoids schmaltzy phrasing that ruin most interpretations of the song for me. 

You can find Tina Brooks’ albums streaming in CD quality on Qobuz and Tidal if you’d like to check them out and have a subscription to the services (click on the service name to jump to the album). 

But really, you’ll probably want to pick this up on vinyl as the complete package is solid with detailed liner notes, session photography, a laminated deluxe gatefold cover and period accurate labels. Actually, the whole album design for The Waiting Game makes it look as if it had been released in 1961 or ’62. That’s a very sweet and tasteful presentation for this music for its first time being issued on vinyl.

The Waiting Game is a total keeper for me. Now I have to get the other four of Tina’s albums (this and one other are in the Tone Poet series!).  

And then I have to make some room in my collection for them! 

Ah, the jazz discovery journey never ends!

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