RIP Bob Brookmeyer – Study and Listen to “The Door”

As you probably have heard by now, Bob Brookmeyer passed away last week, just a few days shy of his 82nd birthday. A tremendous loss for the jazz world. I’ve been listening to Bob’s stuff since I was in high school, all the while marveling at the musical way in which he approached improvisation, arranging, and composition.

One fond memory I have is transcribing a bunch of his solos off the record Live at Sandy’s
, a double album. For those of you too young to remember, that was two 33 RPM records included in one purchase. I think I just about wore that thing out. Still have it in a box in my basement. Thank God for cassette tapes at the time!

While in college, I studied and learned alot from Ray Wright’s jazz arranging book, Inside the Score
. Inside the Score was one of the first books that actually had the entire chart printed out with the accompanying recording included. Bob’s “First Love Song” inside that book taught me alot about how substitutions work and how a simple melody could be made to sound totally different by reharmonizing it. Sounds like Bob was composing right up until his death, which is the way any one would want it I suppose.

I posted an excerpt of the score and recording below for you to listen while you study an original composition by Bob called “The Door”. Many thanks to class member Laurent Rinaldi for supplying this recording and PDF excerpt. You can purchase The Door here in its entirety. (Be sure to check the doubles in the sax section – he wrote for English horn and oboe!)

You can study and listen by expanding the score below while listening to the audio via the audio player below. Follow the score along with your mouse and use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out of the music. Press escape to exit the expanded score.

NOTE: This is an excerpt only. Purchase the entire score and recording of The Door here.

If you have any comments or any experience regarding Bob Brookmeyer, be sure to leave a comment below.

      1. TheDoor.mp3

Also….Check out this terrific recorded segment on NPR (National Public Radio)

9 Replies to “RIP Bob Brookmeyer – Study and Listen to “The Door””

  1. Laurent Rinaldi

    indeed, a tremendous loss
    i had no idea who Bob Brookmeyer even was, till i joined the jazz arranging course at the Nice Music Conservatory (i was 47)
    my teacher told us about Bob, i bought one of his record, and a whole new world opened to me
    this guy was a true genius, talented and gifted
    i had never heard anything like that before
    in one of his interviews, he said that the most important things were melody & rhythm, rhythm was what pushed the melody ahead
    and that the 2 most important players in the band were the lead trumpet and the drummer (i felt sorry for the other players)
    thank you Jim, for putting both the score excerpt and the MP3 online so quickly
    i think Bob deserved an online lesson, and asking you to do so seemed pretty obvious to me
    thanks again Jim

  2. Jim Martin

    Thanks for providing this for the class Laurent. I totally agree with your comments about how Bob considered melody and rhythm to be the most important. His harmonic sense is one of a kind though too. Also, I agree that the lead tpt and drummer are the most important. I would say the drummer edges out lead tpt by a hair, mainly because a drummer can make or break a chart – and he is playing all the time too.

  3. Rick Hirsch


    Thank you for posting this. So rich! Brookmeyer caught my ear first as an improvisor, on the Mulligan quartet recordings from the 50s. When I developed an interest in writing, I rediscovered him via the Mel Lewis Orch.

    Brookmeyer was certainly one of my primary musical heroes. I’m glad he was around for so long!

    ~ Rick
    State College, PA

  4. Jim Martin

    Interesting to note how in m. 48-49 he double 2 flugels with the low flute and clarinet.

    On its own, the flute would never be heard here, esp. in a live setting. From my experience, flute works best in the band in the octave above the middle C. From middle C to the C above, its pretty weak as far as cutting through anything.

    This was a studio recording so anything can be fixed in the mix, but always keep those ranges of the instruments in mind when writing anything. The ranges have so much to do with the balance and effectiveness of the musical line.

  5. Dave Emery

    Thanks for these hands on lessons.
    As a novice, I’m going to have to review it several
    times to grasp it better. But the results was a
    great sound.
    In the current small church I’m playing in,I only have
    three trumpets to work with, plus the usual piano, keyboard
    (for strings) drums, bongos, bass. So I usually have to
    let the 1st trpt have the lead and 2nd and 3rd do harmony
    or counterpoint.

    Sometimes I can add a flute on certain charts, or a
    baritone sub for a trb.

    I’d like to have some Christmas or Easter songs done in
    that style. Makes them more interesting
    for the listener, rather than accepted routine that’s
    been around for so long. I know it’s bucking a trend in
    some churches, but it makes worship more vibrant in many

  6. Jim Martin

    Dave, you don’t have to be a novice to review this one a few times. I would suggest going over this many times to see how he harmonizes those melodies.

    When you get down to the basics, there is only really three things going on in any chart at any one time:

    1) melody, 2) rhythm, and 3) harmony.

    Its up to the arranger to basically put the puzzle together and present to the listener a coherent and logical representation of these 3 things. From my experience, I think melody and rhythm are easier than harmony, but harmony really just enhances the first two, melody and rhythm. Bob was an expert at all three, obviously, but listening and watching the score over and over helps the learning process by osmosis I think.

    In 2012, I will post many more “listen and study” charts so class members can benefit from seeing the notes along with the sounds of the music.

  7. Jim Martin

    Also notice in m 69 & 70 he leaves out the lead trumpet and saves him for the next line. Don’t be afraid to save your lead players (tpt and bone) for this kind of thing.

  8. Gerry Snyder

    Jim, thought you would like to know a local middle school (Lee Middle) is playing your arrangement of “Blues Walk”
    and loving it.Gerry

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