Tina Brooks had a short-lived career during the heyday of hard bop and didn't record for the last 12 years of his life. Nonetheless, his own records and his sessions with Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd, Jimmy Smith, and Kenny Burrell leave the impression that he was on his way to becoming a tenor giant when he was overcome by health problems due to drug addiction. Brooks did session work with both Amos Milburn and Lionel Hampton, but the key to his own artistry is on the Blue Note label. He led only four sessions as a leader for Blue Note from 1958 through 1961 -- during his lifetime. The first two, Minor Move and True Blue, define the weighty edge in Brooks' playing and his plethora of improvisational ideas that extended the blues framework he operated out of beyond what most players were doing at the time. His reliance on minor-key signatures and open-ended harmonic figures were much-envied trademarks among his peers. Also on Blue Note is his work with McLean and Redd, both of whom played on his recordings. Perhaps Brooks' most seminal moment as an improviser, though, was on Redd's score for Jack Gelber's Beat play The Connection, performed by the Living Theater, where the musicians played themselves as characters and drug addicts, which was close to, if not spot on, the actual truth. Here he and McLean turned the hard bop blues into an aggressive, deeply emotional wail of truth and beauty winding around each other in short bursts and long lines as Redd turned the intervals inside out for the pair to blow. Brooks work on McLean's Street Singer and Jackie's Bag in 1959 and 1960 as well as Shades of Redd are stunning also.