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Jazz Review : Bob Brookmeyer At Alfonse's

August 27, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

The valve trombone has produced barely a handful of specialists, of whom Rob McConnell and Bob Brookmeyer are the only living representatives of major significance.

The horn, though it facilitates long staccato runs where the slide trombonist gains only in the glissando department, has a somewhat somber, gray sound that does not hold up well under conditions of extended improvisation.

A composer and arranger of exceptional talent, Brookmeyer, who played Monday at Alfonse's in Toluca Lake, has always done his best work when squaring off against another horn (he enjoyed long, successful associations with Clark Terry and with Gerry Mulligan) or in a big band setting, as with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

In his present context, as the lone horn soloist with only a rhythm section to support him, he is unable to provide ensemble blends, reducing each tune to a predictable formula: Theme, trombone solo, piano solo, bass solo, theme.

It took Brookmeyer a whole set to hit his stride. By the final number, his own "Madame X," the group seemed to have jelled and Alan Broadbent, whose piano had shown power and imagination throughout, was spectacular. The bassist, Eric von Essen, though nimble, seemed out of place, or perhaps unfamiliar with some of the material. Mike Stephans contributed the mandatory drum solo in the final number. (Can anyone remember when jazz sets ended without a drum solo?)

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