Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: Over Time — The Music of Bob Brookmeyer

Planet Arts Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Over Time

Jazz fans who lived during the Big Band era know that Bob Brookmeyer was one of that period’s giants. His primary instrument was the valve trombone, but he also played piano and, most importantly, was a master composer and arranger. It simply isn’t possible to name a jazz great with whom he didn’t play, or a colleague who didn’t admire his talent, or a modern artist who doesn’t revere him.

Brookmeyer’s first horn was the clarinet, but he quickly turned to the piano. By the age of 14, he was writing arrangements for full orchestras, and making a living out of it! All that aside, he fell in love with the trombone: not the common slide instrument, but the version that used valves. The tone and “sound” he got out of that model were beyond compare. He blessed us with a lengthy career — born in 1929, died in 2011 — and he worked with literally hundreds of combos and bands. His discography ran from the 1950s to just a year before his death.

Brookmeyer was associated with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra for years, and this CD features his compositions and arrangements. The original 16-piece orchestra was formed in 1966 by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis; this album gathers 19 musicians.

The result is gorgeous. The set list features eight compositions, including a three-movement suite; although these arrangements don’t swing as much as some of Brookmeyer’s earlier music, it’s true modern jazz. His talents continued to grow and advance throughout his life, and this release is proof positive of his overall mastery and place in the jazz pantheon.   

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