Now in his seventies, feisty Bob Brookmeyer has nothing to prove to anyone about his virtuosity as composer, arranger or valve trombonist - but he keeps on doing it anyway, ably supported in this instance by Germany's worldclass Jazz Big Band Graz. Brookmeyer, once a hardcore bopper who played with and wrote for the likes of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan and many others, has adapted and ripened his approach, as anyone should, but without losing sight of those harmonic and rhythmic components that have played a cardinal role in the development of Jazz as a discrete musical genre. Much like such contemporaries as Bill Holman and Bob Florence, Brookmeyer is interested in the sweeping diversity of sound and uses every section of the orchestra as a canvas on which to paint his beguiling tone poems. He has a wonderful partner in Sigi Feigl's JBBG, which amplifies every nuance of his sophisticated charts and swings hard while doing so. The album enfolds half a dozen of Brookmeyer's compositions, the first three of which were commissioned by the JBBG. Brookmeyer solos on four tracks, in each instance proving that his chops are as dependable as ever. Soprano saxophonist Klaus Gesing is showcased on the fuguelike opener, "Q & A," and his spasmodic solo is, to these ears, the least engaging of any on the disc. Brookmeyer takes matters in hand on the melodically intense "Eleven," soloing with assurance and inspiring tenor Klemens Pliem to follow his lead with another cogent statement. The leisurely "Wedding Song" is flatout gorgeous with solo to match by Brookmeyer, while "Tulip's" swinging pattern offers a sturdy platform for Gesing, trumpeter Horst Michael Schaffer, synth maester Uli Rennert and the orchestra's supple rhythm section, anchored by drummer John Hollenbeck and including pianist Fritz Pauer and bassist Wayne Darling. Brookmeyer's mellow valve trombone is front and center on the metrically adventurous waltz / march / ballad "Romance for One," and the session closes with "Over Here," a dynamic, nononsense tour de force for Brookmeyer and drummer Hollenbeck. Brookmeyer has lost none of his fire or inventiveness, and the Jazz Big Band Graz is a marvelous sounding board for his compositional mastery. A charming and colorful album, easily recommended.
Track Listing: Q & A; Eleven; Wedding Song; Tulip; Romance for One; Over Here (54:06).
Personnel: Sigi Feigl, artistic director; Bob Brookmeyer, composer, arranger, valve trombone; Heinrich von Kalnein, alto, soprano sax, flute; Robert Friedl, alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Klaus Gesing, tenor, soprano sax, bass clarinet; Klemens Pliem, tenor, soprano sax, flute; Martin Harms, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Andy Pesendorfer, Axel Mayer, Horst Michael Schaffer, David Jarh, trumpet, flugelhorn; Wolfgang Messner, Grzegorz Nagorski, Michael Bergbaur, trombone; Hans Radinger, bass trombone; Fritz Pauer, piano; Uli Rennert, synthesizer; Wayne Darling, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums.