Turning 75 this year, valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer brought his New Art Orchestra to town last month at the IAJE and a “Battle of the Bands” at the Village Vanguard. He endures as a master of the “cool” and continues to produce musical permutations resulting in elaborate and complex compositions that are clear and pure: music, that is, well, “cool”. Island is co-led with a musician who is as respected as Brookmeyer, 74-year-old flugelhorn/trumpet player Kenny Wheeler. In addition to the audio CD, Island includes a DVD where the upfront Brookmeyer and the more reserved Wheeler are revealed. A mini-course in their distinct improvisational and compositional approaches, the DVD has mp3, Dolby digital surround and sonically superb 96 bit versions of each of the seven tracks. A video documentary features in depth interviews. While listening, solo transcriptions can crawl across the screen or be printed as lead sheets. Bob Brookmeyer/Kenny Wheeler Island
On both Island and Stay Out of the Sun, trios of younger musicians provide support that allow the veterans to display the beautiful subtleties and coloration of their instrumental lines while propelling them into new territory. Island features pianist Frank Carlberg who brings his classical precision to tunes like Wheeler’s “114” and “Where Do We Go From Here” yet uses his avant bearing to color Brookmeyer’s quirky “Upstairs With Beatrice”. “Strange One”, is that, thanks in major part to Jeremy Allen’s engaging bass bow and drummer John Hollenbeck’s individualistic percussive effects.
1. Before the First Time, 2. 114, 3. Where Do We Go from Here?, 4. Song for Kenny, 5. Upstairs With Beatrice, 6. Island, 7. Strange One
Bob Brookmeyer - Trombone (Valve), Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Frank Carlberg - Piano, John Hollenbeck - Drums, Jeremy Allen - Bass
Stay out of the Sun
While Island is chiefly a cool groove, Stay Out of the Sun can also swing. A newer version of Brookmeyer’s 1986 quartet (Oslo, Concord) it again features drummer, Michael Stephans. Brookmeyer leads with a rounded tone that is without peer but guitarist Larry Koonse is also front and center. Things start off swinging with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You” as Koonse comps behind Brookmeyer before showing off a classic fat sound. “Wistful Thinking”, penned by the late bassist and former quartet member, Eric Von Essen, has Tom Warrington venerating on his bass as the t-bone plaintively remembers. Brookmeyer switches to piano on the Koonse-penned tango “Longing” but impresses most on his original numbers. These include the breezy “Stay Out of the Sun”, a smooth tribute to a special lady named “Kathleen”, the cleverly time shifting “Turtle” and the wonderfully understated guitar/ trombone meld, “Janet Planet”. The Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic, “Blue in Green”, reworked with a skillfully subtle flamenco guitar backing, closes out the session as Brookmeyer’s tonal variations warmly guide his quartet deep into the “cool”.
1. If I Loved You, 2. Wistful Thinking, 3. Stay Out of the Sun, 4. Longing, 5. Kathleen, 6. Turtle, 7. Janet Planet, 8. Bruise, 9. Blue in Green
Bob Brookmeyer - Piano, Trombone (Valve), Larry Koonse - Guitar, Michael Stephans - Drums, Tom Warrington - Bass