|Bob Re: Michael|
Michael and I met in LA, around 1974, or so. I was playing a small band job with Terry Gibbs and Jerome Richardson and this young guy comes up, introduces himself, said he had always liked my music and would like to do some playing. Well, I was not then the most energetic guy on the block, having pretty well abandoned jazz for a career in the studios—movies and TV—but my new friend would not take no for an answer. He called, I came and we played… he was immediately both an interesting musician and a very cultured, funny man. We became an “item” and his love for me continued while I was getting sicker (alcoholism) and—when I got sober—he would not let me quit playing. I had intended to leave it all behind and be a counselor. No chance. So, if I am still giving some joy in life, he is one of the main reasons.
After moving back to NY, I began to make trips to LA, which always included a quartet with Michael, a bassist and a guitarist. I think there probably ain’t one of them I have NOT played with, due to Stephan’s looking for the “right combination” for me. This CD is the documentation of almost 30 years of making music together. Mike found Larry Koonse, who is part of me now, and Tom Warrington, an immensely gifted and melodic bassist. I wrote the tunes in the hotel the day of rehearsal and got lucky. When you work with me you learn to read fast—still a last minute composer—and I am very pleased with the result. Mike offered “If I Loved You” and “Blue in Green”—Larry wrote a lovely tango and there we went. It seems that, somehow, every summer we do 3-4 nights out there—now to increase the visits! It’s a loving bunch of people and a wonderful band. Thanks, Michael… you are my younger brother, in music and life.
Michael Re: Bob
I first heard Bob Brookmeyer when I was in my mid-teens. My family and I were in Jacksonville, Florida visiting some relatives, and one day I happened into a record shop and bought an interesting looking album by baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and The Concert Jazz Band. To make a long story much shorter, I brought the record back to my cousin’s house, took it out of its glossy black sleeve, and plopped it onto the phonograph. The first cut I heard was one of those finger-snapping things that sort of chugged along like a big old Hudson Hornet, lumbering from side to side, rooty-tooting down the street. The piano and tenor solos were good, but sort of unmentionable, however, after the tenor solo, there was a funky, raspy, downright greasy trombone solo—one that wheezed, bleated, belched, farted, yowled, and groaned. This was down and dirty—jazz that rumbled and resonated deep inside, jazz that changed how I would hear and play music over the next 40 years. This was my first exposure to the genius of Bob Brookmeyer.
Now, even an uneducated green-grilled teenager like me back then could figure out that Brookmeyer was unique. He played (and still plays) the valve trombone, which has always been considered the illegitimate stepchild of the more conventional slide instrument. Bob could use the valves to bend and twist notes. He could actually sing the same note he was playing into the horn and make the note being played sound wet and raspy, like a bull elephant with a cold. Sometimes he would not play a note at all, but just move the valves and breathe through the horn, sending a column of air loudly out of its big brass bell. In those early years, Bob’s musical vision transformed the valve trombone into a living, breathing thing—a gruff, yet fundamentally primordial voice that dug down deep into something I could not even begin to put a name to. All I knew was that I had to hear more of Brookmeyer. That’s when the record buying began. At a time when most of my buddies were spending their money on baseball gloves and chemistry sets, I was scooping up every LP on which the Brookmeyer name appeared, either as leader or participant. As a result, I became acquainted with the music of some other famous guys, like saxophonists Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, and guitarists Jim Hall and Jimmy Roney. I had become a starry-eyed wanderer in the many twisting, turning halls of jazz with Brookmeyer as my inspiration and tour guide. After some near misses during my college years, I finally met Brookmeyer in the mid-seventies about a month after I moved to Los Angeles from the east coast. He had relocated in L.A. from New York City about ten years earlier and had established what I thought was a successful and satisfying studio career, making music for movies, television, and of course, records. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. In retrospect, I think that Bob had become a victim of what some psychologists refer to as “The Buzz Aldrin Complex”. In plain English, that meant that his stellar career, like the astronaut’s, had taken him figuratively to the moon and back, and that anything which came after that zenith was anti-climactic and in short, boring. The early stages of our friendship were filled with disillusionment and disappointment for me. All those years of hero-worship and inspiration dissolved sadly and all but disappeared in a few short months, leaving me questioning the path I had chosen and sluicing my view of the music world into something dark and cynical.
The Brookmeyer I came to know was the antithesis of cool—far removed from the man I had admired in the magazine and album cover photographs. This Brookmeyer had let all of that go. And he was, as I came to discover very rapidly, living under the terrible specter of alcoholism. When we finally were to play in public together, it was a dismal affair—one that sent Bob spiraling into a severe, self-imposed exile. After that, I didn’t hear anything from him for quite some time. He didn’t return my calls, and was nowhere on the club scene. I fully feared the worst, however, quite the opposite happened. When he finally did call, Bob’s voice was serious, his words carefully measured. He indicated that he was going to attempt to put his life back on track, with the help of hospitalization and an alcohol rehabilitation program.
Liner notes continue...
|If I Loved You|
|Stay Out of the Sun|
|Blue in Green|
|Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombone and piano|
Michael Stephans, drums
Larry Koonse, guitar
Tom Warrington, bass