A reader writes:
I agree that the Mosaic Mulligan Concert Jazz Band collection is absolutely magnificent….Here’s an idea for future research: Bob Brookmeyer is one of the unacknowledged giants of American 20th century music. I hadn’t realized that he pretty much ran the CJB, and of course there were his innovative arrangements for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, and much great music since then.
And I in turn I couldn’t agree more. Brookmeyer isn’t quite unsung–I profiled him a few years ago in the New York Times–but he’s definitely undersung, and I was delighted that Bill Kirchner gave him full credit for his behind-the-scenes role with the Mulligan Concert Jazz Band in the liner notes for Mosaic’s CJB set, a link to which you’ll find in the “Teachout’s Top Five” box of the right-hand column. In addition to being a no-nonsense, utterly distinctive valve-trombone soloist (and a damned fine pianist, too, amazingly enough), Brookmeyer is gradually coming to be recognized as one of the most individual and significant of all jazz composers, as well as one of the very few to have grappled successfully with the challenge of large-scale form.
For those who don’t know Brookmeyer’s music, here are links to a few of his best albums:
New Works: Celebration (Challenge), recorded in 1997, features Brookmeyer’s Europe-based New Art Orchestra in a performance of his four-movement suite Celebration, a fully realized, highly impressive large-scale work for big band.
Holiday: Bob Brookmeyer Plays Piano (Challenge), recorded in 2000, is proof that all men are not created equal–some can play valve trombone and piano with equal skill and individuality. Life is unfair.
Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival (Challenge), recorded in 1979, is a wonderful collection of duets teaming Brookmeyer with Jim Hall, the best of all possible jazz guitarists.
Live at Sandy’s Jazz Revival, Vol. 1 (DCC Compact Classics), recorded in 1978, is the first half of a long-unavailable two-disc album in which Brookmeyer was teamed with Jack Wilkins on guitar, Michael Moore on bass, and Joe LaBarbera on drums–one of the finest small groups he ever led. (Whatever happened to Volume Two, by the way?)
Brookmeyer also recorded extensively as a sideman with Gerry Mulligan (start with the Mosaic set, then look for At Storyville, a live album by the Mulligan Quartet) and Stan Getz (I especially like Stan Getz-Bob Brookmeyer).
That’ll get you started, though you should also take a look at Brookmeyer’s Web site, which contains a wide-ranging selection of his famously outspoken comments on everything under the sun. I’ve never known a more candid man, or a more extravagantly gifted one. May he live to be at least a hundred.