I yield to no one in my admiration for Bob Brookmeyer, but Darcy James Argue gives me a good run for my money. Brookmeyer, the ground-breaking composer, arranger, leader and nonpareil valve trombone soloist, entered his ninth decade this week. Early in December, the Eastman School of Music honored him for his lifetime of achievement and he sat in with the students there. I cannot improve on the eloquence about Brookmeyer in Argue’s Secret Society web log. A sample:
Brookmeyer is one of the greatest living composers, full stop — that’s not hyperbole, that’s just how it is. He is also a tremendous soloist on valve trombone (Bob gave up the slide instrument at the earliest opportunity). His swing feeling is unstoppable and as authentic as it gets: he grew up in Kansas City in the 1930’s, and first heard the legendary Walter Page-Jo Jones edition of the Count Basie band live when he was all of eleven years old. (Bob says the experience “gave me my first full-body thrill.”) He is a true improviser, never reliant on stock licks or patterns, and is consistently inventive and surprising even on the most timeworn standards.
Argue includes five MP3 playbacks of some of Brookmeyer’s best big band work. He links to several other tributes and evaluations and to Brookmeyer’s own account of the Eastman event. To read — and listen to — the whole thing, go here.
Congratulations to Darcy on a fine installment, and happy birthday to Bob Brookmeyer, an American cultural treasure cherished abroad and overdue for official recognition by his country.