Bob Brookmeyer has an unusually varied and extensive background in all forms of improvised and composed music. He was born December 19, 1929, attended Kansas City Conservatory of Music where he won the Carl Busch Prize for Choral Composition. He arrived in New York playing piano with Mel Lewis and Tex Benecke, staying there to perform the music of Eddie Sauter with Ray McKinley, free lancing with musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, PeeWee Russell, Ben Webster, Charles Mingus and Teddy Charles. After a brief stay with Claude Thornhill, he joined Stan Getz and maintained that association for 15 years. Leaving Stan Getz in 1954 he joined Gerry Mulligan, replacing Chet Baker, producing the Paris Concerts and beginning a partnership that lasted until Mulligan's death. Among his prime achievements was the creation of the Concert Jazz Band. In 1958, he spent a year with Jimmy Guiffre Three, including Jim Hall, which turned out to be the first group to employ regular free improvisation as a staple of the concert fare. Along the way, he made a two piano album with Bill Evans, played on George Russell's New York, New York, and became a regular in the studio musicians “A” group. The Quintet with Clark Terry began in 1961 to great success and continues to this day. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band once again found him as a key member and contributing composer/arranger. Also in 1979 he and Jim Hall played as a duo exclusively for one year, garnering critical acclaim.
In 1981 he began to work extensively in Europe as a composer and conductor, creating many works for Cologne and Stockholm. He also was appointed Musical Director of the Mel Lewis Orchestra, while beginning a career in University teaching at the Manhattan School of Music. In 1988 he was appointed Director of the BMI Composers Workshop and in 1991 he moved to Holland to start a radical new school for improvised and composed music. Upon the demise of this venture he returned to the United States and settled in New Hampshire, assuming a position as Chair of the Jazz Composition Department at the New England Conservatory. While in Europe he was invited to initiate a jazz project at the Famed Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, which in turn became the beginnings of his New Art Orchestra, an 18 piece group that remains his composition voice. They have recorded three CDs for the Challenge label—New Works, which was CD of the Year in England, Waltzing With Zoe and Get Well Soon, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2005.