Bob Brookmeyer this weekend. In a live date from Drøbak Norway in 1981, Brookmeyer and a Norwegian ensemble consisting of John Paul Inderberg, sax – Atle Hammer, trumpet/flugelhorn – Per Hasby, piano and Espen Rud on drums. This gig is the end result of Brookmeyer spending a week with a top-flight group of Norwegian musicians – it was also the subject of a documentary done for Norwegian TV.
A short, (21 minutes) but very tasty example of Brookmeyer at work with an inspired group of musicians.
Bob Brookmeyer was widely known as one of the essential figures in the Cool-School movement of Jazz, whose career got started with the Claude Thornhill band and later branched out into working with Gerry Mulligan (a Thornhill alumnus) along with Stan Gets and Jimmy Giuffre. His list of collaborations reads like a Jazz Who’s Who and he was active all the way up until his death in 2011.
In 1965 Brookmeyer became a founding member of the famed Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, dividing his time between arranging and playing lead trombone. In April of the same year, he joined the Merv Griffin Show as staff musician, but found the work especially dissatisfying. In 1968 he moved to the west coast and took a decade-long break from jazz recording.
From 1968-77, although relatively inactive as a jazz musician, Mr. Brookmeyer worked as a session musician and staff arranger in Los Angeles, playing for motion pictures and television. He came out of retirement in 1978 with the album Back Again (Sonet Productions) and returned to New York. After playing with the Stan Getz Sextet on their European tour (1978), Brookmeyer formed his own quartet and began making new recordings. In 1979 he became musical director of Mel Lewis’s reorganized Jazz Orchestra, was awarded another Grammy® nomination for Arranging and Best Album (Bob Brookmeyer: Composer, Arranger Live at the Village Vanguard, Gryphon), and, in 1980, received his first NEA grant for Jazz Composition.
In the 1980s Mr. Brookmeyer established himself as a prominent educator in the US and internationally. He was appointed to the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music (1988), served as Director of the BMI Composer’s Workshop (1989), and appeared as a clinician at various colleges and universities. In 1991 he moved to Rotterdam, where he organized the World School for New Jazz and taught composition and improvisation at Rotterdam Conservatory. In 1994 he was appointed musical director the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Big Band, a worldwide jazz-based ensemble dedicated to new music. Over the next few years, this ensemble evolved into Brookmeyer’s award-winning NewArt Orchestra. In 1996 he was named artistic director of the Composition Workshop at Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen. Returning to the US, in 1997 Brookmeyer began teaching full-time at the New England Conservatory, where he chaired the department of jazz composition and created the NEC’s Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra before his retirement in 2007.
Brookmeyer boasts an extensive discography, appearing both as leader and sideman on dozens of albums, including numerous recordings with US jazz icons. He was a multiple Grammy Award winner and three-time grant recipient for composition from the National Endowment for the Arts. As an internationally recognized composer and arranger, Brookmeyer received commissions from the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Swedish Radio Symphony, WDR Big Band, Metropole Orchestra in the Netherlands, The Twelve Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, Chamber Music America, The American Jazz Orchestra, and the New York Council on the Arts, among others. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (1991) and the New England Conservatory (2008) and was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006.
Mr. Brookmeyer’s last recording, Standards, was released a few weeks before his death in 2011. It featured his own NewArt Orchestra with vocal soloist Fay Claassen.
A taste for those not familiar and a reminder for those who do, here is Bob Brookmeyer and his Sextet, live in Drøbak Norway in 1981.