JJ 04/61: Bob Brookmeyer – Portrait Of The Artist

Sixty years ago Daniel Halperin reckoned the trombonist's latest effort portrayed him as vain, tedious, cliché-ridden and apathetic. First published in Jazz Journal April 1961


The portrait of Mr. Brookmeyer painted here with the aid of large masses of talented musicians is tedious, cliché-ridden and apathetic. His lengthy “Blues Suite” is a piece of junk and if this wasn’t a clean-living, family magazine this musical mess could justifiably be described in terms more forthright and four-lettered. Mr. Brookmeyer must, on evidence presented here, be a fantasti­cally vain man; only vanity, a pardon­able enough sin but one which record-buyers can’t be expected to underwrite, could have justified dignifying this hotch-potch of borrowings with the title of musical composition.

What gets into these people? Granted that Mr. Brookmeyer is a brilliant valve-trombonist and granted, too, that he plays the piano very well and has a charming leaning towards Kansas City jazz, what in this great, green world ever possessed him to give such immature musical meanderings the unfortunate permanency of a 33 rpm record?

Oh, well, there are mysteries every­where.

For the rest of it, there are four com­petent charts played quite well by such great musicians as Ernie Royal, Al Cohn, Gene Quill and Ray Copeland; they all solo beautifully. And it must be noted that Mr. Brookmeyer is an undeniable master of the valve-trombone and that he does play the swinging hell out of a piano. It is, in fact, on piano that he performs most creditably here.

A further point. On the sleeve-note Nat Hentoff makes chic references to Herriman’s strip-cartoon classic “Krazy Kat”. To the best of my knowledge, and as far, also, as Charles Fox and Benny Green can recall, this strip never appeared in Britain. So what are knowing references to it doing on this sleeve-note? The Decca habit of printing U.S. sleeve-notes intact is a slothful one.

(a) Blues Suite (21 min.) – (b) It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing; Mellow Drama; Out Of Nowhere; Darn That Dream (21 min.)
Blues Suite 1st, 2nd and 4th movements: Brookmeyer (p/v-tbn); Frank Rehak (tbn); Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow (tpts); Earl Chapin (Fr-hrn); Don Butterfield (tuba): Gene Quill (alt): Al Cohn (ten); George Duvivier (bs); Charlie Persip (d). Blues Suite 2nd movement, “Mellow,” “Thing”: John Barrows replaces Chapin; Danny Bank (flt/reeds) replaces Cohn; Nick Travis replaces Glow; Bill Barber replaces Butterfield. “Nowhere” and “Dream”: Irvin Markowitz and Ray Copeland replace Royal and Travis; Gene Allen (ten/bar) replaces Bank.
(London LTZ-K 15208. 12inLP. 35s. 9½ d.)