Bob Brookmeyer was long considered one of the top valve trombonists in jazz and a very advanced arranger whose writing was influenced by modern classical music. He started out as a pianist in dance bands but played valve trombone with Stan Getz (1953). He gained fame as a member of the Gerry Mulligan quartet (1954-1957), was part of the unusual Jimmy Giuffre Three of 1957-1958 (which consisted of Giuffre's reeds, Brookmeyer's valve trombone, and Jim Hall's guitar), and then re-joined Mulligan as arranger and occasional player with his Concert Jazz Band. Brookmeyer, who was a strong enough pianist to hold his own on a two-piano date with Bill Evans, occasionally switched to piano with Mulligan. He co-led a part-time quintet with Clark Terry (1961-1966), was an original member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra (1965-1967), and became a busy studio musician. Brookmeyer was fairly inactive during much of the '70s, but made a comeback in the late '70s with some very advanced arrangements for the Mel Lewis band (of which he became musical director for a time). Brookmeyer moved to Europe, where he continually wrote and occasionally recorded on his distinctive valve trombone, issuing Old Friends in 1998. New Works Celebration appeared a year later, and in 2000 he issued Together. Brookmeyer continued to perform and release albums through the next decade, often working with his European big band The New Art Orchestra including 2002's Waltzing with Zoe, 2004's Get Well Soon, and 2007's Spirit Music. In 2008, he explored his deep interest in classical music with Music for String Quartet and Orchestra. He wrote innovative big-band compositions and was highly regarded as a teacher: his classes at the New England Conservatory of Music are the stuff of legend. On December 15, 2011, Brookmeyer died in his sleep at a hospital near his home in Grantham, New Hampshire; the cause was congestive heart failure. He passed just a month after releasing the album Standards via the ArtistShare website, and only three days shy of his 82nd birthday.
Bob Brookmeyer Biography
by Scott Yanow