Bob Brookmeyer & Friends
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2005, Volume 12, #9
Written by John Metzger
In May 1964, valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer assembled an all-star cast in order to record a single album for Columbia Records. Not only did the session reunite him with saxophonist Stan Getz, but it also paired him with pianist Herbie Hancock and bass player Ron Carter — both from the Miles Davis Quintet — as well as with Elvin Jones (from the John Coltrane Quartet). After a series of disagreements erupted between Brookmeyer and producer Teo Macero over the addition of original compositions to the ensemble’s repertoire — Macero wanted to release an album that featured only standards, while Brookmeyer had other plans — Getz, in an attempt to temper the tension, tapped vibraphonist Gary Burton to join the fray.
Although the bickering continued for the duration of the three-day session, the angst was not apparent within the resulting music that composed Bob Brookmeyer & Friends. In fact, the eight-track set was remarkably relaxed, warm, and intimate. The sprightly, sun-kissed gait of Brookmeyer’s own creation Jive Hoot opened the collection, and it instantly established the jovial and playful mood that remained for the duration of the album. Time and again, Brookmeyer and Getz took turns delivering highly lyrical solos, but what was, perhaps, most interesting about the endeavor was what lurked beneath the surface within the burbling undercurrents laid down by Jones, Carter, Hancock, and Burton. Given its usage of "stop-time" cadences, it wasn’t surprising that The Wrinkle showcased the propulsion provided by the rhythm section, but even the breezy Bracket and Hoagy Carmichael’s tranquil Skylark highlighted the interactions, subtle as they may have been, among the instrumentalists.
Making its inaugural appearance on CD, Bob Brookmeyer & Friends has been augmented by a trio of additional tracks that also were captured at the recording session for the album. The highlight is a breathtakingly beautiful rendition of the Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington-penned gem Day Dream, which featured a guest appearance from Tony Bennett on vocals. Equally stellar are the tender ballads Time for Two and Pretty Girl, which also could have been featured on the original effort. Indeed, although most star-studded line-ups have a tendency to feel awkward, Bob Brookmeyer & Friends is congenially performed from start to finish — so much so that it frequently sounds as if it has captured one of those special, magical moments that most often is reserved for when the recording equipment isn’t operating. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box