Thursday, September 24, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 148: Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer, during this time period, was somewhat bicoastal. He had replaced Chet Baker in Gerry Mulligan's famous pianoless quartet, and he was still making dates in New York. This is another four song, 10-inch recording date, perhaps because Prestige already had one such session (with Teddy Charles), and needed one more to fill out a full length LP.

This New York session is also a pianoless quartet, except when it isn't. On two of the tunes, Brookmeyer plays piano. Actually, Brookmeyer had started as a pianist, with the Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley bands, before switching to valve trombone full time. This was actually true of the Mulligan-Brookmeyer quartets, as well--they were pianoless except when they weren't, since both Mulligan and Brookmeyer played piano.

To my ears, there's no falling off in technique or imagination when Brookmeyer switches to piano. He's great on both instruments, and the four tunes together, with the piano and trombone alternating, make a cohesive unit.

The quartet makes a cohesive unit, too. I believe this is Mel Lewis's debut on record. His first
important professional gig had come in just the previous year, when he had joined Stan Kenton's orchestra. Teddy Kotick had also played on the Teddy Charles session.

I continue to be impressed with Jimmy Raney, who's been on several Prestige sessions before this. His solos are beautiful, and his duet exchanges with both Brookmeyers, the trombonist and the pianist, are dazzling. He does a very cool duet with Teddy Kotick, as well, on his own composition,  "Potrezebie," the title of which tells me that in addition to his other accomplishments, Raney was an early fan of Mad comics. Mad's resident genius, Harvey Kurtzman, had run across the word in a set of Polish instructions for a bottle of aspirin (and who among us hasn't read aspirin labels in Polish?) and decided he liked thesound of it as a nonsense word (it actually means "need"). Looking on to see if anyone else had recorded "Potrezebie," I discovered that although it hasn't been picked up by any other Mad-loving jazzmen, there are a number of Polish songs that use it in the title. The Polish songs spell the word correctly: Potrzebie, with no "e" between the "r" and the "z." Actually, the root word is an inflected noun, and "potrzebie" is the dative case of the noun. The various Polish songs usually use "potrzebuje" or "potrzeba," which, as near as I can make out, are verb forms. "kilkanaScie przedsiEbiorstw potrzebuje nowych dochodOw"  translates as "Over a dozen of enterprises need new incomes," which seems somehow appropriate for a discussion of jazz. I like to think that Jimmy Raney was a real Mad fan, and knew the correct spelling, but was done in by the label maker for Prestige's pressing plant.

The original 10-inch release in 1955, and the later 12-inch release, were both titled The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer, referencing two different sessions with two different Hall Overton students, or more likely Brookmeyer as trombonist and pianist. The same album was also given a New Jazz release, as Bob Brookmeyer -- Revelation!

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