JazzSnaps: Randy Brooks (1946) - JazzWax

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January 25, 2012


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Han Schulte

Randy Brooks records "Harlem Nocurne" (1945) and "Tenderly" (1947), both for Decca, sold each over one million copies.
A picture of his band playing in New York in the late 1940's can be found in Leo Walker's "The Big Band Almanac" (1978 p. 51).
A picture of Randy playing solo trumpet can be found in George T. Simon's "The Big Bands" in the section "Horn-playing Leaders" (1967/1971 p. 467).


Randy Brooks was one of the most talented, musical, and risk-taking brass men on the planet. He could play a glissando on the trumpet like no one else. And his staccato work was more precise than Harry's.

He surely *was* "the man with the horn". Why he never made a bigger name of himself is one of the mysteries in jazz history; on the other hand it's quite clear: He was never the star type, the fellow for the gossip columns like his closest competitor Harry James.

He was a musician in the first place, and he took his business very seriously. Maybe too seriously?

His band could have swung more often for my taste; its rhythm section wasn't too flexible, and some of the charts sounded a bit "bombastic", if not overloaded sometimes. They couldn't cut it loose.

Anyway, there are enough splendid assets like the wonderful vocalist Harry Prime ("Lamplight"is just beautiful!), and of course Randy's sparkling horn, which let me listen to it frequently.

It was just the wrong time - the mid 1940's - for getting an orchestra started. R&B came up, the smaller jazz bands played bop or dixieland, and the pop vocalists took over completely.

Here's another track with Randy, "The Man With The Horn" from 1945:



P.S. -- The snapshots are unique, Marc. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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