Another old friend of mine has passed on. Bob Brookmeyer, who died on Dec. 15 at the age of 81, was a large part of my musical life for many years. I met him at a jam session at Med Flory’s apartment in the early 1950’s, and worked with him on Stan Getz’s quintet in 1952, with the Gerry Mulligan Sextet in 1955 and ‘56, the Mulligan Quartet in ‘56 and ‘57, the Mulligan Concert Jazz Band in ‘60 thru ‘64, the Mulligan Quartet again from ‘62 thru ‘65, and the wonderful quintet that Bob and Clark Terry co-led from 1962 thru ‘66. We recorded together with that group, as well as with Getz, Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Jim Hall and Jimmy Raney, among others, and played together at countless New York jam sessions.
In those days, Bob and I both lived in Greenwich Village, and we spent a lot of time at each other’s apartments, or hanging out in Village clubs and bars. I didn’t try to keep up with him as a drinker… Bob had a hollow leg when it came to alcohol, and could play beautifully even after inhaling many martinis.
I remember Bob’s laughter as much as I remember his wonderful music… he had a comical turn of mind, told stories with great relish, and laughed uncontrollably at the lines Zoot Sims and Al Cohn came up with while standing at one or another of the midtown bars that catered to musicians in those days.
Bob’s intake of alcohol finally reached a dangerous level, especially after he moved to California in the late 1960s, but, with the help of some good friends, he got off the sauce, and returned to New York ten years later, where he began playing and writing again, to the joy of his friends in the jazz world.
He finally settled in New Hampshire, and I was only able to hang out with him via e-mail, with an occasional visit when he came down to the city. He continued to write wonderfully, mainly for European bands, and never lost his trombone chops. I admired him tremendously, and am sore at heart to lose him.
He told me a story, once, that gave me a clue to the source of his great sense of humor. When his father was near the end of his life, he was rushed to the hospital after a paralyzing stroke. As he lay on an ambulance stretcher in the entry to the emergency room, the admitting nurse plodded through an interminable amount of formalities and paperwork. Finally, she leaned solicitously over the stretcher and asked, “And now, Mr. Brookmeyer, what are you in here for?”
Mr. Brookmeyer, barely able to speak, croaked, “Burglary!”
A memorial service for Bob will be held at St. Peter’s Church in New York on April 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Tim Wendt used to sub on Bill Holman’s band in Los Angeles. Bill rehearsed at the Local 47 union hall every Thursday. At one rehearsal, just before counting off the first tune, Bill announced that the band would be taking a few weeks off. “I was at my doctor yesterday for an exam, and I need to get a pacemaker installed, because apparently my heart occasionally skips a beat.”
Pete Christlieb quickly said, “Gee, that’s too bad. Well, guys, let’s play. Ready? Here we go… One, Two, FOUR!”
Tim says they couldn’t play for the next ten minutes.
Tom Hubbard was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, and heard commentator Matt Lauer remark: “Playing with gusto are the sixty-five active duty men and women who compromise the NYPD marching band.”
Annie Lebeaux had a gig playing the piano and singing at a good Italian restaurant on the west side of Manhattan. To impress the owner, Bruno, who was from Italy, Annie learned an Italian pop song phonetically. When she performed it at the restaurant to polite applause, she said to her audience with an embarrassed grin, “Sorry if I didn’t sing with much expression, but I had no idea what I was singing about.” Bruno called out, “That’s okay, dolling, we had no idea what you were singing about either!”
Jack Reilly sent this one to Doug Ramsey, who sent it to me:
A thug walks menacingly into a bar, wearing a slouch hat and a trench coat, carrying a trombone case. Everyone moves away, and some head for the door as quietly as they can. The guy, impassive and scary, sets the trombone case down on the bar and slowly unsnaps it. Very deliberately, he pulls out an AK-47.
The people in the bar breathe a sigh of relief and go on about their business.
From Facebook, Scot Bradley quoting David Baker:
“John Coltrane practiced all the time. I went over to his house for dinner once and he was practicing at the dining room table during dinner. I was trying to engage John in conversation, but he kept practicing. Seeing my frustration, he paused for one second and said, ‘Keep talking, I’m listening,’ then he went right back to shedding.”