Bob Brookmeyer has been in the news a lot of late. It shouldn’t take an 80th birthday to precipitate this avalanche of applause — his artistry and tremendous output throughout the decades should be cause enough — but such is the nature of arts coverage in America so I am thrilled that he has garnered a spotlight.
Thanks to Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides for reminding me and for posting a video I had not seen, AND for pointing me to Spirit Music: Bob Brookmeyer at 80, an appreciation that includes a brief account of the Eastman celebration on Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society blog plus several delectable downloadable audio clips and other links.
My personal memories of Bob go back a ways. “Trombone and guitar duets? Your kidding, right?” So said the little kid that I was in the 1960s when dad said he and Bob Brookmeyer were going to play a duo gig at Hopper’s, a now long-defunct restaurant/jazz club just a couple of blocks away from our apartment. Filial love aside, I was mesmerized and have been an ardent follower of all-things-BB ever since. By my teen years I was addicted to his arrangements for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
In 1999 a recording of Brookmeyer & Hall 1979 duo performance at the North Sea Jazz Festival was released on CD and I got to write the liner notes.
And here are just a few more BB links worth noting:
Jazz Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer on His Career, Influences, and Outlook on Music at ArtistHouse Music.
Bob Brookmeyer at Trombone Page of the World.
Bob Brookmeyer to blow out some candles (with his trombone) at Jazz @ Rochester blog.
Bob Brookmeyer and Some of His Friends on Night Lights (a weekly one-hour radio program of classic jazz hosted by David Brent Johnson and produced by WFIU Public Radio).
Americans For Financial Reform web site exhorts you to “sing your displeasure.” Here’s a sample:
(Jingle Bells) Goldman Sachs, bankster hacks, bailouts every day…
(Deck the Halls) Wrecked our homes with loans of folly…
(Joy to the World) Joy to the banks, the crash has come, the Feds reward their sins…
Click here for more lyrics.
And on a more serious note, check out what else you can do at Showdown America: The American People vs Wall Street Banks.
I am not one of those people who walks around all day with an iPod streaming my favorite music direct to my brain via ear-buds, but I do listen to music while driving. Not just on the very occasional long trip up the coast, but daily when doing local errands, and when stopped at a traffic light at a major intersection, or near a freeway off ramp, I often wonder if music would make the homeless people I see there looking for a handout feel better too. “The Soloist” comes to mind (book by Steve Lopez, movie starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr) but Nathaniel Ayers was cello prodigy training at Juilliard in New York when schizophrenia took hold. And there are lots of homeless playing music on the streets and hoping for tips in return.
I imagine myself driving around handing out free iPods filled with wonderful music of all types – classical and jazz, hip-hop and opera. I can picture scores of homeless toe-tapping their way through our streets, heads bobbing, eyes smiling. But then I have visions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and realize that medicating with music doesn’t solve any of real problems.
Food for the soul is nourishing, and the homeless seem to agree. In New York, violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins been performing in shelters for five years — she calls her program Music Kitchen. Recently, at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church shelter, one of her listeners told a New York Times reporter “I look at music as something to get my mind focused off of the other things I’m going through,” and another explained “I’m not stable right now. To hear them play, it motivates me to do what I have to do in the future.” (“For the Homeless, Music That Fills a Void” The New York Times, December 19, 2009)
I spent a little time this morning looking online for any other stories about music and homelessness. I found several reports of concerts to raise money for groups that help the homeless, and some wonderful programs for children like Rock For Kids, a chicago-area non-profit that brigs music classes to homeless and underprivileged youth, but I was looking for stories that explored the beneficial impact that music can have on people. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the look on my face when I read a blog post about a city commissioner in Florida who thinks that “piping opera or classical music into the Five Points area might disperse some of the homeless.” I had a few of my own choice prescriptions for him. Meanwhile, I continue my quest, so if you’ve heard of any pertinent stories, please let me know.