Spirit Music Review from jazzreview.com
7/30/2015 4:11:49 PM - Bob Brookmeyer, master of the valve trombone, was an arranger at 14. Influenced by 20th century classical music and such jazz giants as Eddie Sauter, Gil Evans, and George Russell he has become a leader in the evolution of the big band. During the eighties he applied his compositional and arranging talents to the Mel Lewis band and for the past decade his vehicle of choice has been his New Art Orchestra. Brookmeyer selects and directs the musicians, who are largely drawn from Germany.

Scott Yanow, in his liner notes for the orchestra's 1999 debut CD, New Works, ranked them as " one of the finest jazz-based big bands around today" and described Brookmeyer as "a composer and player who continues to grow and develop." Their fifth release, Spirit Music, confirms Yanow's assessment. While the instrumentation is standard big band, augmented by English horn and synthesizer, the orchestra's creative output defies categorization. There's strength in this band, and continuity without apathy. The integration of soloists and orchestra is superb. About half of the players, including the lead trumpeter, drummer and most of the soloists, appeared on New Works.

"The Door" is a beautiful theme. introduced by the English horn of guest Kirsty Wilson and restated with the power of the orchestra and the soaring alto of Marko Lackner. The tenderness and tranquility of "New Love" is expressed in Brookmeyer's chart and Nils Van Haften's tenor. Next are two dances: "Dance for Life" is a lilting arrangement that builds and builds, with drama provided by Ruud Brells' trumpet. "Happy Song" has a Celtic flavor and is full of shifting rhythms, counterpoint and percussion. The suggestion of melancholy that Brookmeyer mentions in his notes is apparent in "Alone" but quickly alleviated with the swingin' "Silver Lining." He contributes inspired solos to both. "The End" is a solemn ensemble piece ending with Bach-like exchanges between pianist and orchestra.

Brookmeyer is proud of the New Art Orchestra's musicianship and dedication. He deserves to be. Spirit Song reaches out to the human heart and spirit. It made me want to stop writing and just listen ...listen...listen.

Reviewed by: Bill Falconer
"Only a few of the acknowledged giants of orchestral writing still toil in the recording studio, and Brookmeyer stands among the best of them."

-- LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Howard Reich
"When the entire audience stood and responded with people cheering, shouting and clapping, I realized that this was a moment that will forever live in my memory as an artistic triumph for a great artist. I've experienced it with Miles, Sonny, Trane and now with the compositions and orchestrations of Bob Brookmeyer." [In response to Bob's performance at the IAJE Conference in Jan. 2004]

-- Benny Maupin
"This painterly material is played by not just a big band, but a real orchestra in every sense of the word."

-- JAZZ NOW -- Lawrence Brazier
"This is a musician who finds magic in the spaces, the phrasing, the pauses. For me, it just doesn't get any better than this."

-- 52nd STREET JAZZ -- J. Robert Bragonier
"The captivating New Work (Celebration) is remarkable evidence of the intricate musical language Bob Brookmeyer has crafted as a composer. In the realm of his own inner logic - informed by Sauter and Stravinsky as much as George Russell and even Boulez - Brookmeyer has conceived something that is as warm and passionate as it is cerebral and sometimes startling."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ - Douglas Payne
"As a writer, Brookmeyer calls to mind Bill Holman and Gil Evans, among others, singular artists who use the entire orchestra as a canvas on which to paint their elaborate and expressive musical portraits."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ -- Jack Bowers
Brookmeyer Celebration Concert
Ben Ratliff - NY Times, Part 1
Ben Ratliff - NY Times, Part 2
Terry Teachout Review
Spirit Music - Ben Ratliff's Top 10 of 2006
Bob Brookmeyer: Spirit Music
Spirit Music Review from jazzreview.com
The Irish Times Review
Brookmeyer's Big Band: Hugely Rewarding
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Photo by Wolfgang Gonaus
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Photo by Takehiko Tokiwa