Bob Brookmeyer Day

December 19, 1929 – December 15, 2011

A birthday tribute to the valve trombonist and arranger-composer

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Valve trombonist, arranger, and composer Bob Brookmeyer was born on December 19, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Brookmeyer was a professional musician as a teenager, originally playing piano in the big bands of Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley.

He switched to valve trombone by the early 1950s, working with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and then becoming a major force in the cool jazz scene of the era, working and recording with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, the Jimmy Giuffre 3 and on many record dates and studio sessions.

Easily the premiere valve trombonist of the time, Brookmeyer was a member of the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band of the early 1960s (for whom he contributed arrangements), held his own on a duo piano album with Bill Evans, co-led a quintet with Clark Terry, and was with the original Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

He spent ten years living in Los Angeles, working in the studios and successfully battling alcoholism.

Brookmeyer returned to New York, became the musical director for the Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1979, and developed into an advanced classical-influenced arranger/composer and educator (Maria Schneider was one of his proteges) who occasionally played valve trombone in his older style and led orchestras in Europe.

Here is Bob Brookmeyer on February 21, 1965 with flugelhornist Clark Terry, pianist Laurie Holloway, bassist Rick Laird and drummer Allan Ganley playing “Hum.”

-Scott Yanow


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