Bob Brookmeyer: Bob Brookmeyer and Friends

Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer and Friends

Gary Burton gets to do the memoir which follows the original sleevenotes, and tells an amazing story of big company jazz recording at its most bizarre. Stan Getz fetched him along for moral support after a studio day when nothing usable was recorded. Burton was 21 at the time, and during sessions spent a lot of time chatting to Elvin Jones while the tenorist fretted, Ron Carter stayed above the fray, and the leader maintained a continuing argument with the producer, Two Macero, over what precisely was to be recorded. Macero, according to Burton, had his all-star band, one from Trane and two from Miles Davis and (wow!) Stan Getz.

What’s next? You’re kidding? Can’t you play a standard?

I’m not sure what young Herbie Hancock did when the Streit was in process on the topic of repertoire– it apparently lasted a long time — but Tony Bennett was there one day and recorded words to Johnny Hodges’ “Daydream”, a track stuck in the archives till now. Bennett and Getz had been working together and did manage to record rather more around the time. Though, for contractual or other reasons, the music didn’t come out until not that long back.

Dave Brubeck has several times lately expressed his bemusement over what happened when he arrived to record the subsequent hit album with “Take Five” on it. He’s had no idea there were unwritten laws about repertoire, and that he was flouting an ancient law (well, one about as old as the LP record, maybe 10 years) as to what a jazz album had to contain.

Original compositions? Hold on a minute!

Neither Brubeck nor Brookmeyer could necessarily be assumed wholly sympathetic to the fad for original compositions which has in late times given cause for wariness of new albums: you don’t need to listen to us play material you’ve heard elsewhere. Listen, instead, to us repeat things a few times which you hadn’t heard before this album.

Like Burton, the author of the notes in the rear of the jewel-case speaks of a final outcome in which five Brookmeyer compositions were recorded. The track-list has only four! Macero, it seemed, wanted as few new things as possible. There was a compromise, which Burton is glad of because he likes to listen to the great men play standards.

Brookmeyer’s “Jive Hoot” can hardly have disturbed Macero? Burton says he was amazed at the friendly reception Brookmeyer gave him when he arrived unexpected bearing vibes. Brookmeyer even fixed out some of the arrangements to include him, and however “Jive Hoot” might have sounded without him it is marvellous with him. People who’ve heard his amazing new quintet should notice the young Burton’s slightly squarer phrasing with its tonal spread. Brookmeyer plays a chorus on a “Misty” which has Getz at his tenderest.

“The Wrinkle” has some echoes of Mingus, melodically and rhythmically, but soft, with unaccompanied stop-time passages in each solo, after each of which Ron Carter brings things on. On “Bracket”, Brookmeyer is more in the bag of Mingus’ stalwart the late Jimmy Knepper. Jones participates in the vigorous but urbane chase choruses which conclude the number.

The set is something of a period piece, incidental to the quality of the music. It ain’t demanding stuff, but nice. Macero wanted wide appeal and got it.

“Skylark” does, however, have some interesting melodic invention, and Getz playing in accompaniment to other soloists. Soothing. The horns also work well together on “Something Else”. With “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” there’s no dearth of ballad interest. Brookmeyer mellow and Getz in the same passionate tender mode as on “Misty”.

The original closer, Gershwin’s “Who Cares”, is distinguished by the mighty drumming of Elvin Jones as both outstanding accompanist to Brookmeyer’s solo and as soloist himself. Jones overall shows just what variety of range he had. “Day Dream” has Bennett singing words to a Johnny Hodges tune on a set where Getz does now and then recall Hodges. Brookmeyer’s “Pretty Girl” could well have words put to it.

My computer did crash when I went back to check something in the course of typing this review. I hadn’t cancelled the software and page for another of the CDs in this batch. Funny business: I can’t see that there’s anything to be gained by this electronic supplementation. Presumably it will be a topic for other reviewers, handling other discs with the same extra-musical stuff aboard.

RATING 7 / 10