Harold Land was a member of the Max Roach-Clifford Brown quintet in the '50s, and co-led another quintet with Bobby Hutcherson in the late '60s and early '70s. Early in his career, he was noted for a dry tone and rather individualistic approach. During the '60s, Land's tone became harder and his phrasing and style more intense as he incorporated elements of John Coltrane's approach into his style. But Land was first and foremost a hard bop stylist.
Land began playing sax at 16, after his interest in music increased during high school. He initially played in San Diego bands, then moved to Los Angeles. Land's earliest recording experience was for Savoy in 1949, when he cut four tracks with Leon Petties, Froebel Brigham, and others leading the Harold Land All Stars. He joined the Max Roach-Clifford Brown quintet in the early '50s, replacing Teddy Edwards. Land stayed in the group about 18 months, recording with them for EmArcy, then left to play with Curtis Counce. He played with Counce from 1956 to 1958, appearing on Counce dates for Contemporary and Dooto. (He also recorded with Frank Rosolino on a Specialty date that didn't surface until the late '80s, though it was originally done in 1959.)