Robinson was born and grew up in New York City. He attended the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts in the summer of 1959. Robinson served in a U.S. military band in the early 1960s. His first record, Funk Dumpling (with Kenny Barron, Henry Grimes, and Paul Motian) was recorded in 1962. He also appeared with Grimes on The Call in 1965, on the ESP-Disk label (ESP 1026).