Born: January 16, 1930 | Died: October 28, 2001 Primary Instrument: Sax, tenor
Henry Spike Robinson was born in Kenosha,Wisconsin on 16th January 1930. He begain playing alto in the early 40's and in 1948 entered service in the U.S Navy as a musician. He somehow got a posting to London in 1950 and very quickly found his way to the leading jazz clubs where the new music was being disseminated.
t this time he was Parker influenced and made some sides for the local Esquire Label in company with the leading London boppers including Victor Feldman. When he returned to America he wisely acquired a professional degree and established himself as an electronics engineer in Colorado. He retained his jazz interest and switched to tenor sax, and with a style now a compound of Getz, Moore, Zoot, and Robinson he played with many local groups. Then in 1981 with the encouragement of his old friend Vic Feldman, now established in the U.S., he recorded an album of Harry Warren tunes which was well received by critics and fans alike. This album was re-released in 1994 with added tracks featuring Pete Jolly.
In 1984 some London fans who remembered him fondly from the early fifties persuaded him to come over and play some dates around the city. This he did and in company with the Eddie Thompson Trio quickly won a following and this first visit was captured on two HEP live recordings At Chesters Vols. I&II. With many warm reviews in his pocket he went home but returned the following year and extended his tour base plus a further Hep recording with guest Elaine Delmar on five tracks In Town. In the late ‘80’s he also did a lot of sessions and performances with Denver based pianist Ellyn Rucker.
It seemed somehow logical that with such popularity in the UK that he should move over permanently which he did. A series of recordings in varied settings followed in the late eighties and early nineties with Louis Stewart and Janusz Carmello, Roy Williams, Martin Taylor, and a Gershwin set with strings arranged by Jimmy Deuchar. He also recorded in France with Saxomania and continued an American presence on Capri Records in company with Harry Edison and Al Cohn. Spike seemed to have an endless knowledge of the classic American Songbook plus the ability to unearth long forgotten nuggets and give them his own individual polish.
In his ever increasing appearances in Europe,USA as well in the Uk. he was greatly supported by his agent/manager Susan May who became Mrs Robinson. Although he was happiest playing alongside like minded contemporaries like George Masso or Al Cohn he also fitted in perfectly with younger players and his last recording was made with a band organised by altoist Derek Nash.
Spike Robinson died peacefully at his home on October 28th,2001. His departure leaves a huge gap in the ranks of those players who love classic songs; who think and play lyrically but can swing hard when asked.
Source: James Nadal