Bob Brookmeyer: 1929-2011
Bob Brookmeyer died in his sleep Thursday night in a hospital near his home in Grantham, New Hampshire. He would have been 82 on December 19. The cause is reported as congestive heart failure.
Several weeks ago, Bob sent me a test pressing of the next album by his New Art Orchestra. He attached a note:
This CD is very much a pre-production sample. Please hold close to your vest.
I have been listening to it repeatedly and holding it close, only to learn today that it has been released under the title Standards as an artistShare download and as a CD. The music demonstrates the craftsmanship, wisdom, humor, flair and architectonic mastery of form that make Brookmeyer one of the supreme composers and orchestrators in the history of jazz. As discrete statements, as settings for soloists, and in support of the singing of Fay Claassen, his pieces on Standards are emblematic of the happy place Brookmeyer had reached in a life and career that had many highs but also lows that for a time were reflected in his music. He once said of the period when he dealt in electronic music and acoustic music that sounded electronic that some of it could make your teeth hurt." He worked through whatever led to that, and for the past decade he wrote music that could make you smile, not because it was funnyalthough it could be, in his wry waybut because it was so satisfying.
I may write more tomorrow about Brookmeyer and his productive life as a writer and as the standard-setter for valve trombone playing. Tonight, allow me to simply share with you two Brookmeyer moments.
Here's a track from a 1953 10-inch LP, his first album as a leader. This is the 24-year-old Brookmeyer with John Williams, piano; Red Mitchell, bass; and Frank Isola, drums.
Moving ahead 50 years, here's Brookmeyer conducting his beloved New Art Orchestra in Get Well Soon." The tenor sax soloist is Paul Heller.
Bob Brookmeyer, RIP