Tina Brooks was born Harold Floyd Brooks on June 7, 1932 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the brother of tenor saxophonist David “Bubba” Brooks. He initially studied the C-melody saxophone, which he began playing in 1944 shortly after his family relocated to New York.
His first professional work came in 1951 with rhythm and blues pianist Sonny Thompson and Lionel Hampton four years later. His friendship with trumpeter and composer Little Benny Harris led to his first recording as a leader. Harris played a key role in Brooks’ acquiring a contract with Blue Note Records in 1958.
Best known for his work for Blue Note Records, between 1958 and 1961, Tina led four recording sessions and worked as a sideman on record sessions with Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd and Jimmy Smith. Appearing on Brooks’ albums, McLean and Brooks’ also gave highly regarded performances of the music composed by Redd in Jack Gelber’s play “The Connection”, from which came a recording of the music from the play.
Declining health problems due to heroin dependency, his recording career ceased after 1961. Tina Brooks, the hard bop tenor saxophonist and composer whose strong, smooth tone and amazing flow of fresh ideas are indelibly imprinted on seventeen sessions in the Blue Note catalogue, died at age 42 of liver failure on August 13, 1974.
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Oliver Edward Nelson was born on June 4, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. His brother played sax with Cootie Williams and his sister sang and played piano. He began playing the piano when he was six, the saxophone by eleven and by age 15 he was playing in territory bands around St. Louis. In 1950 he joined Louis Jordan’s big band, playing alto saxophone and arranging.
After military service Nelson returned to Missouri to study music composition and theory at Washington and Lincoln University graduating in 1958. He married, had a son, divorced, moved to New York City, and began playing with Erskine Hawkins and Wild Bill Davis, and arranged for the ApolloTheatre. In 1959 he briefly worked the West coast with Louie Bellson’s big band and played tenor for Quincy Jones.
After six albums as leader between 1959 and 1961 for Prestige with Kenny Dorham, Johnny Hammond Smith, Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes and others. Oliver’s big break came with his Impulse album The Blues and The Abstract Truth featuring his now classic standard “Stolen Moments”. Propelling him into prominence as a composer and arranger, it opened up opportunities to arrange for Cannonball Adderley, Irene Reid, Sonny Rollins, Billy Taylor, Wes Montgomery, Johnny Hodges and many others.
Moving to Los Angeles in 1967 Nelson spent a great deal of time composing for television shows like Colombo, Ironside, Bionic Woman and films like Death of a Gunfighter and Last Tango In Paris. He produced for Nancy Wilson, James Brown, the Temptations and Diana Ross.
Less well-known is the fact that Nelson composed several symphonic works, and was also deeply involved in jazz education, returning to his alma mater, Washington University, in the summer of 1969 to lead a five-week long clinic that also featured such performers as Phil Woods, Mel Lewis, Thad Jones, Sir Roland Hanna, and Ron Carter.
Oliver Nelson, saxophonist, clarinetist, pianist, arranger and composer died of a heart attack on October 28, 1975, aged 43.
Dakota Staton was born on June 3, 1930 in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is also known by her Muslim name Aliyah Rabia. She studied music at the Filion School of Music. She regularly performed as a vocalist with the Joe Wespray Orchestra in the Hill district, a jazz hotspot.
Spending the next several years on the nightclub circuit she played Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis. While in New York she came to the attention of Capitol Records producer Dave Cavanaugh. Signing her, they released a series of albums that led to her winning Down Beat’s Most Promising New Comer award in 1955.
Dakota’s biggest hit was The Late, Late Show that went to #4 on the charts in 1957 garnered her international acclaim. The album was followed with In The Night with George Shearing, Dynamic and Dakota At Storyville.
In 1958, she wed Antiguan trumpeter Talib Ahmad Dawud, a Muslim and noted critic of Elijah Muhammad and by the mid-sixties relocated to England. Vocalist Dakota Staton continued to record semi-regularly, her recordings taking an increasingly strong gospel and blues influence until her death on April 10, 2007.
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Two For The Show opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on February 8, 1940 and after 124 performances the curtain came down for its final descent on May 25, 1940. Directed by John Murray Anderson with the sketches directed by Joshua Logan and musical staging by Robert Alton, the original cast included later Hollywood notables as Eve Arden, Alfred Drake, Betty Hutton and Keenan Wynn.
The Story: This was a revue with several sketches being performed such as “The Age Of Innocence” and “Cookery” written by Richard Hadyn. There were two other revues in this series, all conceived and directed by John Murray Anderson: One for the Money (February 4, 1939-May 27, 1939), and Three to Make Ready (March 7, 1946-December 14, 1946).
The most notable song introduced in the show was “How High The Moon” which subsequently has been recorded by many jazz artists, becoming a well-known standard
Jazz History: Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonious structure and melody. It was developed in the early to mid-1940s and first surfaced in musicians’ argot sometime in the first two years of American involvement in WWII.
The origins of the term “bebop” has been debated by numerous authorities and researchers usually stated to derive from nonsense syllables or vocables used in scat singing, and is supposed to have been first attested in 1928. However, some researchers speculate that it was a term used by Charlie Christian because it sounded like something he hummed along with his playing.Yet, Dizzy Gillespie’s version of the story relates that the audiences coined the name after hearing him scat the then-nameless tunes to his players and the press ultimately picked it up, using it as an official term: “People, when they’d wanna ask for those numbers and didn’t know the name, would ask for bebop.”
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Lennie Niehaus was born June 1, 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri. A musical family heralded a concert pianist sister and a father who was an excellent violinist who started his son on the violin at seven, then switched to the bassoon. At 13 he began learning the alto saxophone and clarinet.
Always interested in composing and writing music Lennie studied music in college and in 1946 began playing professionally with Herb Geller, Herbie Steward and Teddy Edwards in 1946. Six months later he joined Stan Kenton, then drafted in 1952 but two years late rejoined Kenton after his discharge.
Leaving Kenton in 1959, Niehaus began composing, moved back to Los Angeles and arranged for the King Sisters, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, and Carol Burnett. Three years later saw him orchestrating for film composer Jerry Fields, a relationship that yielded more than sixty TV shows and films.
He orchestrates his own pieces and never forgets his jazz roots in film, writing jazz and using jazz musicians like Marshall Royal, Bill Perkins, Pete Jolly, Mike Land, and Clint Eastwood. He was the musical director for the Charlie Parker bio-feature, Bird.
After many years of not playing his alto saxophone at all, Niehaus returned to performing, reportedly in top form. He continues to arrange, compose and play alto on the West Coast jazz scene.