Bob Brookmeyer


Image by/from Laura Kolb @ Lochaven

Robert Edward “Bob” Brookmeyer (December 19, 1929 – December 15, 2011) was an American jazz valve trombonist, pianist, arranger, and composer. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Brookmeyer first gained widespread public attention as a member of Gerry Mulligan’s quartet from 1954 to 1957. He later worked with Jimmy Giuffre, before rejoining Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band. He garnered 8 Grammy Award nominations during his lifetime.

Brookmeyer was born on December 19, 1929 Kansas City, Missouri. He was the only child of Elmer Edward Brookmeyer and Mayme Seifert.

Brookmeyer began playing professionally when in his teens. He attended the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, but did not graduate. He played piano in big bands led by Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, but concentrated on valve trombone from when he moved to the Claude Thornhill orchestra in the early 1950s. He was part of small groups led by Stan Getz, Jimmy Giuffre, and Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s. During the 1950s and 1960s Brookmeyer played in New York clubs, on television (including being part of the house band for The Merv Griffin Show), and on studio recordings, as well as arranging for Ray Charles and others.

In the early 1960s Brookmeyer joined flugelhorn player Clark Terry in a band that achieved some success. In February 1965 Brookmeyer and Terry appeared together on BBC2’s Jazz 625.

Brookmeyer moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and became a full-time studio musician. He spent 10 years on the West Coast, and had a serious alcohol problem. After he overcame this, he returned to New York. Brookmeyer became musical director of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1979, although he had not composed any music for a decade. Brookmeyer wrote for and performed with jazz groups in Europe from the early 1980s. He founded and ran a music school in the Netherlands, and taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and other institutions.

In June 2005, Brookmeyer joined ArtistShare and announced a project to fund an upcoming third album featuring his New Art Orchestra. The resulting Grammy-nominated CD, titled Spirit Music, was released in 2006. Brookmeyer was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in the same year. His eighth Grammy Award nomination was for an arrangement from the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s album, Forever Lasting, shortly before his death. That same album was also nominated in the 57th Annual Grammy Awards for the category of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album; the CD was entirely made up of Brookmeyer’s compositions.

Brookmeyer died on December 15, 2011, in New London, New Hampshire.