Like two of his other three albums, Tina Brooks' final session as a leader (in March 1961) was sequenced and prepared for release, but remained on the shelves until well after the tenor's tragically early death. That's why the title of The Waiting Game is not only apt, but sadly poignant. Despite Blue Note's reservations at the time, Brooks' output for the label was uniformly strong, demonstrating his skills as a smooth, graceful soloist and a composer of considerable dexterity within the hard bop idiom. Swinging and bluesy, yet sophisticated and refined, The Waiting Game upholds the high standard Brooks set with his previous sessions. Brooks is especially fine on his minor-key compositions, such as "Talkin' About" and "Dhyana," which allow his streak of melancholy romanticism to emerge (as does the lone cover here, the Tony Bennett hit "Stranger in Paradise"). With its hints of Eastern modalities, "David the King" is perhaps the most challenging piece here; in fact, it had been attempted without success at the Back to the Tracks sessions. Brooks sounds especially searching on the album-closing title cut, and pianist Kenny Drew and trumpeter Johnny Coles contribute some long, fluid lines of their own. Hard bop fans will find The Waiting Game just as necessary as Brooks' other albums. Not counting the out-of-print Mosaic box, The Waiting Game was first issued as its own entity in 1999 in Japan, and was finally released in the U.S. in October 2002.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey