Bob Brookmeyer
Brookmeyer in a 1963 advertisement
Brookmeyer in a 1963 advertisement
Background information
Birth nameRobert Edward Brookmeyer
Born(1929-12-19)December 19, 1929
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
DiedDecember 15, 2011(2011-12-15) (aged 81)
New London, New Hampshire, U.S.[1]
GenresMainstream jazz
Cool jazz
West Coast jazz
Post bop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, educator
Instrument(s)Valve trombone, piano
LabelsImpulse!, Mainstream, RCA, Verve

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[2] from 1954 to 1957. He later worked with Jimmy Giuffre,[3] 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.[4] He was the only child of Elmer Edward Brookmeyer and Mayme Seifert.[1]

Brookmeyer began playing professionally 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.[1]

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.[5]

Brookmeyer moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and became a full-time studio musician. He spent 10 years on the West Coast and developed a serious alcohol problem. After he overcame this, he returned to New York. Brookmeyer became the 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.[1]

Clark Terry & Bob Brookmeyer at the Clearwater Jazz Festival in the 1980s

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.[1] His eighth Grammy Award nomination was for an arrangement from the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's album, Forever Lasting, shortly before his death.[1] 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 of congestive heart failure on December 15, 2011, in New London, New Hampshire.[1][6]

Compositional style

One notable element of Brookmeyer's compositional style is his use of contemporary classical writing techniques in his works for big bands and jazz ensembles. In the early 1980's Brookmeyer was mentored by composer Earle Brown, with whom he explored 20th century classical music in depth. Brookmeyer's works since have been influenced by such composers as Witold Lutosławski (whose cello concerto Brookmeyer used often in teaching students about simple motifs), Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, György Ligeti, and Béla Bartók.[7]

Some examples of 20th-century classical compositional techniques used in Brookmeyer's jazz pieces are:

Honors and awards

Grammy Awards (nominations)

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1960 Blues Suite', composed by Brookmeyer Best Arrangement Nominated
1965 The Power Of Positive Swinging, composed by Brookmeyer Best Instrumental Jazz Performance Nominated
1966 ABC Blues, composed by Brookmeyer Best Original Jazz Composition Nominated
1980 Skylark, arranged by Brookmeyer Best Instrumental Arrangement Nominated
2001 Impulsive! (Album) Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album Nominated
2004 Get Well Soon (Album) Large Jazz Ensemble Album Nominated
2006 Spirit Music (Album) Large Jazz Ensemble Album Nominated
2008 St. Louis Blues, arranged by Brookmeyer Best Instrumental Arrangement Nominated
2011 Nasty Dance, arranged by Brookmeyer Best Instrumental Arrangement Nominated


As leader/co-leader

As sideman

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Keepnews, Peter (December 18, 2011). "Bob Brookmeyer, Jazz Musician and educator, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Berendt, Joachim (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 380.
  3. ^ Berendt, Joachim (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 384.
  4. ^ Berendt, Joachim (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 199.
  5. ^ "Tribute to Bob Brookmeyer". December 19, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  6. ^ artsjournal obituary. Archived May 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Guerra, Stephen J. Jr. (2016). A Study of Bob Brookmeyer's Compositional Style for Large Jazz Ensemble. p. 55.
  8. ^ Guerra, Stephen J. Jr. (2016). A Study of Bob Brookmeyer's Compositional Style for Large Jazz Ensemble. pp. 56–70.