The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is moving as quickly as it can to bring you more about the future features described in the sidebar and asks you to bear with us in this regard as the holidays are upon us.
“Almost the first sounds to
be heard on the classic Jazz on a Summer's
Day soundtrack are the mellow tones of Bob Brookmeyer's valve trombone
interweaving with Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet on The Train And The River. It's a curiously formal sound, almost
academic, and initially difficult to place. Valve trombone has a more clipped,
drier sound than the slide variety, and Brookmeyer is probably its leading
exponent, though Maynard Ferguson, Stu Williamson and Bob Enevoldsen have all
made effective use of it.”
- Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The
Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Getting to the core could
well be the Brookmeyer credo. As a jazz soloist and writer, Bob wastes little
energy on unnecessary curlicues and affected sounds for the sake of an
artificial eloquence... This is a signpost of basic musical honesty. At the
same time, Bob is dedicated to emotion and the investigation of every nuance
beneath the surface of a selection. The result of this approach is a forceful
personalized transmission of the emotional content of the musical material to
the listening audience...”
- Burt Korall, Jazz writer and critic
“I've loved Bob's
compositions and arrangements and his playing since the moment I first heard
his music in the '70s. It turned my life around. Bob became a
wonderful teacher, mentor and dear friend. And he was enormously generous
to those lucky enough to be his friend.”
- Maria Schneider, Jazz composer-arranger
“Bob has added an amazing
amount to Jazz. He was in the thick of the New
York scene in the 50s and 60s and even hung out
at "The Loft." To the average listener he probably is not that we'll
known. But to me he'll remain one of those fundamental sounds [of Jazz].”
- Dr. Ken Koenig, Jazz musician
“Wherever he goes Bob's bound
to make further contributions and stir up emotions with his "thinking
- Brian Hope, Jazz Fan
“Bob studied at the Kansas
City Conservatory and originally played piano; he took up the valve trombone
when he was twenty-three, and almost immediately became a major figure in jazz.
Most of Bob's career has been
in New York,
working with almost every major jazzman there, but most significantly Clark
Terry, with whom he co-led a quintet. His association with Mulligan continued,
and when Mulligan formed his concert band, Brookmeyer played in it along with
Zoot Sims, Bill Crow,
Mel Lewis, and Clark Terry, and did a great deal of its writing. The band's
haunting arrangement of Django Reinhardt's "Manoir de mes reves" is
Bob is a classic illustration
of the dictum that jazzmen tend to play pretty much as they speak, which is
perhaps inevitable in music that is so extensively improvisatory. He is low-key
and quietly ironic in speech, and he plays that way.”
- Gene Lees
Bob Brookmeyer was
born on December 19, 1929. He died on December 16,
2011, three days
before what would have been his 82nd birthday.
I will miss his
magnificent musicianship, both as an instrumentalist, he played both valve
trombone and piano, and as a composer-arranger.
It seems that Bob
has been a part of my Jazz scene ever since I can remember. Although he
replaced trumpeter Chet Baker with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet in 1953, I first
heard him a few years later on the Emarcy recordings made by Gerry’s sextet.
What a group:
Gerry on baritone sax, Bob on valve trombone, joined on the “front line” by
trumpeter Jon Eardley and tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, with bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey cooking along in the rhythm
What struck me
most about Bob’s playing was its humor. Lighthearted and unexpected phrases
just flowed in and out of his solos and he always seemed to swing, effortlessly.
Bob had fun with
the music while not taking himself too seriously. I mean, anyone who names an
original composition “Jive Hoot” must certainly smile a lot.
Bob knew what he
was doing musically, but he never put on any airs about it.
He had great
reverence and respect for those who came before him in the Jazz tradition and
he even made it a point to “revisit” some of what he referred to as Jazz
“traditionalism” in a few of the earliest recordings that he made as a leader.
Another of Bob’s
virtues was his honesty and his directness. You never had to guess what he was
thinking on subjects that were near-and-dear to his heart. In interview after
interview, reading Bob’s stated opinions was akin to being “hit” by both
barrels of a shotgun loaded with the truth-according-to-Brookmeyer.
If as Louis
Armstrong once said, “Jazz is Who You Are,” then you always knew where Bob
stood. Musically, his playing and his compositions radiated with candor and
clarity; his big band arrangements, in particular, just sparkled with lucidity
and precision. I would imagine that no one performing Bob’s music was ever in
doubt as to what he wanted you to play.
implied or suggested in his writing; he told you what he wanted you to play.
For better or for worse, Bob just put it out there. No wonder he remained such
close friends with Gerry Mulligan throughout his life.
As described above
in the introductory quotation by Gene Lees, Bob was to work with many of the Jazz greats on the West
Coast Jazz scene of the 1950’s and both the New York Jazz and studio worlds of
the 1960’s. He returned to California in the 1970’s primarily to work in movie
and television composing and did some small group gigging at Jazz festivals and
concerts in the USA and abroad throughout the 1980’s.
Upon his return to
New York in the 1980’s, Bob would also become “the
de facto musical director for the orchestra that Mel Lewis led following the
death of Thad Jones.”
In an interview he
gave to Scott Yanow, Bob said: “Before my stay in California [1968-1978], I considered myself a player
first and a writer second. … In addition to Gerry Mulligan’s writing, my big
band arranging was inspired by Bill Finegan, Ralph Burns, Al Cohn, Eddie
Sauter, Gil Evans, Bill Holman and George Russell.”
From 1991 up until
his death, Bob spent much of his time in Northern Europe exploring new approaches to composing,
arranging and orchestrating for some of the resident, larger orchestras in Holland and Germany, including his own New Art Orchestra which
was based primarily in Cologne, Germany.
We hope this all-too-brief
remembrance will serve in some small measure as our celebrationof the musical life of Bob Brookmeyer.
“When all else fails, play
the snare drum. That’s where you learned it all in the first place.”
- Paul Motian
Most of the
drummers that I knew, didn’t like the way Paul Motian played drums with the
classic Bill Evans Trio during his association with the group from 1959-1962.
The constant stop
and starting in his playing drove them nuts: “Why doesn’t he just lay it down?” "What did he do, drop a stick?” “Did his drum kit run out of batteries?” “Why
doesn’t he just swing?”
everyone has nothing but praise for the way Paul made the drums “fit in to what
Evans and LaFaro were doing,” but, during its short-lived, year-and-a-half
existence, such criticisms of Paul’s halting approach to drums in pianist Bill
Evans’ now-classic trio were more commonplace than most Jazz fans will admit.
Paul was aware of
the criticisms of his work with Bill’s trio and remained very sensitive about
the entire topic whenever he was asked about it.
He was quoted as
saying: “Listen to my playing on the New Conceptions album” [Bill’s first
recording with Riverside Records with Teddy Kotick as the bassist]. We played
the music in a straight-ahead manner and I swung my a** off on that record, but
no one ever talks about that trio.”
played in the style of the pioneering, Bebop drum masters such as Kenny Clarke,
Max Roach and Art Blakey.
He played drums
professionally for over 60 years. During that span of time, he moved away from
the aggressive and accented-oriented playing so characteristic of modern Jazz
drumming of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
In a conversation
that I had with Paul in 1996 when he was appearing at the Village Vanguard in a
collaborative trio with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell
he said: “I essentially flattened things out and took a lot of the busyness out
of my playing.”
Hoping to have it
autographed, I had brought along a copy of a “Tribute to the Music of Bill Evans”
CD that Paul had done a few years earlier with Joe and Bill along with bassist
Marc Johnson, who was in Bill Evans last trio before his death in 1981.
The recording was
produced in Germany by Stefan Winter in 1990 and when Paul saw it on my table
as he was leaving the bandstand at the Vanguard, he smiled and said: “You must
have one of the three copies that thing ever sold.”
After he attended
to a few personal matters, he made his way back to my table and we spent some
of his break together talking about music.
I mentioned that I
was a drummer, too, and the conversation went in that direction, that is to
say, we talked about tuning drums, muffling [or not] bass drums,
getting hi hat cymbals to be at exactly the right angle so they “bite” and
about ride cymbals that produce a “clicking” sound when struck by a drum stick.
We talked about
stuff that no one else in the world would be interested in except another
It was a
conversation. I wasn’t interviewing him, just two guys with something in common
– drums – hanging out for a few minutes between sets.
Paul said: “I want
to be musical when I solo and not play a bunch of drumming exercises.”
I mentioned that I
heard a number of pauses in his solos.
said. And then he looked at me and said: “It’s scary to.”
When I looked
confused about these remarks he continued: “Because I’m trying to be a complete
musician. I’m not just keeping the tune in my head while playing drum licks
over it, I’m really trying to make up melodies to express on the drums.
Sometimes it’s not always easy to hear what I want to say because all that
drumming stuff comes into my mind, first”
After a few
minutes, Paul excused himself to greet some friends that had arrived for the
next set. I gave him my business card and told him to give me a call the next
time he was in San Francisco.
When I got back to
my hotel room that evening, I realized that I didn’t have the CD that I’d
brought along for Paul to autograph.
A few days after I
returned to the LeftCoast, a small package arrived at my San Francisco office.
In it was the Paul
Motian/Bill Evans tribute CD and a hand-written note from Paul which said:
“Enjoyed our talk. Don’t forget the pauses. Best, Paul.”
Paul died on
November 22, 2011 and we wanted to remember him on these pages with some
writings about his career and audio-only Very Early track from the PaulMotian/Bill
Evans Tribute CD[JMT 834 445-2] with Joe Lovano on tenor sax, Bill
Frisell on bass and Marc Johnson on drums.
"Give Paul Motian a break for
deciding to cease touring in favor of occasional appearances in New York City. After all, the man has spent his adult life on the
road, lending his cascading and earthy tones to the likes of Bill Evans, Paul
Bley, George Russell, Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, The Electric Bebop Band,
and so many others.
Motian doesn’t keep everyday
time. Although he might lunge into the standard jazz ride rhythm, he’s more apt
to suggest the pulse in other ways, breaking it up between his ancient Zildjian
sizzle and his drumkit. Where others might fill, he’ll let one note linger.
Although he’s clearly in no hurry to fill up space, his latest ECM
release, Garden Of Eden, reveals that he can solo splendidly. He’s been
refining his wizardry since he took up with Bill Evans forty-five years ago. As
it turns out, Motian left the famous trio for fear it was becoming a cocktail
act. “I felt as if I was playing on pillows,” he quips. “It was
becoming that quiet.”
In March of this year, a week
before his seventy-fifth birthday, Motian appeared live with pianist Bobo
Stensen, with whom he recorded Goodbye (ECM). The lights at Birdland
dimmed and Paul began poking at his old Paiste 602 Dark ride, sometimes
extending his arm so that he could strike north of the bell. He’d find a sweet
spot and caress it. Occasionally he’d let out a wide grin. Maybe he was
delighted at discovering an elusive sound. Maybe he was happy at a direction
Stensen had taken. He’s not telling.
“A lot of people,” Motian
complains, “ask why I do something, as if there was a lot of forethought behind
it. No, man, this shit is an accident. Kenny Clarke didn’t plan on being
‘the father of bebop drums.’ It just happened because the tempo was so fast
that all he could do was play accents on the bass drum!”
Motian, who rarely works with
charts, relishes happy accidents. They keep him young, nimble–and edgy.”
“A masterfully subtle drummer
and a superb colorist, Paul Motian is also an advanced improviser and a
bandleader with a taste for challenging post-bop. Born Stephen Paul Motian in Philadelphia on March 25, 1931, he grew up in Providence and began playing the drums at age 12, eventually
touring New England in a swing band.
He moved to New York in 1955 and played with numerous musicians - including
Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Coleman Hawkins, Tony Scott, and George Russell
- before settling into a regular role as part of Bill Evans' most famous trio
(with bassist Scott LaFaro), appearing on his classics Sunday at the Village
Vanguard and Waltz for Debby.
In 1963, Motian left Evans'
group to join up with Paul Bley for a year or so, and began a long association
with Keith Jarrett in 1966, appearing with the pianist's American-based quartet
In addition, Motian freelanced for artists like Mose Allison, Charles Lloyd,
Carla Bley, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Ensemble, and turned down the
chance to be John Coltrane's second drummer.
In 1972, Motian recorded his
first session as a leader, Conception Vessel, for ECM; he followed in 1974 with
He formed a regular working group in 1977 (which featured tenor Joe Lovano) and
recorded several more dates for ECM, then revamped the ensemble to include
guitarist Bill Frisell in 1980. Additional dates for ECM and Soul Note
followed, and in 1988 Motian moved to JMT, where he recorded a long string of fine
albums beginning with Monk in Motian.
During the '90s, he also led an ensemble called the Electric Bebop Band, which
featured Joshua Redman. In 1998, Motian signed on with the Winter & Winter
label, where he began recording another steady stream of albums, including 2000
+ One in 1999, Europe in 2001, and Holiday for Strings in 2002. In 2005 Motian moved to the ECM label, releasing
I Have the Room Above Her that same year, followed by Garden of Eden in 2006
and Time and Time Again in 2007.
Paul Motian died on November 22, 2011 in Manhattan.
The cause was complications
of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and bone-marrow disorder.”