Madly Loving You
On this rich orchestral celebration of Bob Brookmeyer's 70th birthday, he is honored, and featured as valve trombone soloist, in pieces by four established composer-arrangers and four impressive new writers. The veterans are Manny Albam ("Going on 29"), Bill Holman ("Septuagenary Revels"), Jim McNeely ("A Nice Tie, a Pair of Socks...") and Maria Schneider ("Anthem"). Albam and McNeely could not resist working "Happy Birthday" interpolations into the fabrics of their compositions, but the pieces are far from "Happy Birthday" variations. They are, rather, fully realized creations and among both men's best work. Albam's recent death gives his title a poignancy beyond what he intended. Schneider's "Anthem" has Brookmeyer floating her beautiful melody into an orchestration that blooms into a resounding statement. Holman begins by evoking a train leaving the station, initiating a trip through complexities of interwoven lines, sophisticated voicings and rhythmic displacements that swing as if they were simple.
Trombonist and composer Ed Partyka conceived the project and contributed "Madly Loving You," a reconception of Duke Ellington's "Love You Madly" that exults in an array of Partyka's variations on the theme. His solo settings for Brookmeyer range through, among other things, boogaloo, a three-way conversation with drums and clarinet, stop-time, a section that sounds like Bart¢k meeting Ives in a Turkish bazaar, and a pungent faux Dixieland ending. Like Partyka, Marko Lackner ("Green Dreams"), John Hollenbeck ("Processional," "Desiderata") and Frank Reinshagen ("A Small Prelude, You Will See It (If You Go There)") are former students or current colleagues of Brookmeyer. Their pieces reflect aspects of Brookmeyer's composerly influence, each in a strikingly different way.
As for Brookmeyer's work, there may be those who miss the half-valve tricks, slurs, shouts and hollers of his exuberant youth. I am among them. But we can gratefully settle for the harmonic wizardry, subtlety and beauty of his playing in the new century.