Tag: memorial

Remembering İlhan Mimaroğlu (1926-2012)

Composer, musicologist, record producer, and genre bending pioneer İlhan Mimaroğlu (1926-2012) died last month after a long illness. Composer Bob Gluck was one of the last people to do an extensive interview with him, so we asked him to describe this one-of-a-kind music maker for us in memoriam.—FJO

“Since my early age I was interested in what was going on in the world in terms of music, new music. New music, that’s what interests me, new music. It was my principle: you have to start with what’s going on today and then, gradually, go back to the past, where it came from. Rather than start in the past and going forward, you should know what’s going on today in the world […laughter…], [and then learn] where did it come from. That was my view.”—Ilhan Mimaroğlu, interview by Bob Gluck, January 3, 2006

Serious but funny, irreverent but thoughtful, categorical but reflective, politically engaged yet a pessimist—or was he a realist? I found myself silently testing each of these seeming contradictions when I met Ilhan Mimaroğlu in 2006. I found in him a nobility, a deep seriousness, interrupted periodically by bursts of laughter. From time to time, he responded to a question by removing a book from the shelf and reading aloud, quoting from his own published words.

I interviewed Mimaroğlu in the evening on January 3, 2006. Gungor, his wife, met me at the door and offered me tea before bringing me into her husband’s study. The composer was seated comfortably in an easy chair in that dimly lit room. Surrounded by books in Turkish and English, the room was filled with hazy smoke. Breathing was not easy for me, but neither was it for Mimaroğlu, as he chain-smoked through our two hours together.  We joined together in coughs and wheezes.

Ilhan Mimaroğlu

Snapshot of Ilhan Mimaroğlu taken by the author during their interview in 2006.

I remembered my first awareness of Mimaroğlu, his recording with Freddie Hubbard, Sing a Song of Songmy: Threnody for Sharon Tate. I responded to that work because it combined so many of the seemingly conflicting aesthetic worlds that I loved. The music startled me because I never heard so many of them present in the very same piece. Is it a narrative work with semantic meaning? Is it a tonal work for strings? Is it a construction of electronic sounds? An angular post-bop jazz tune, with an asymmetrical rhythmic riff, yet lyrical trumpet solo line?  The answer to all these questions is resoundingly yes! Somehow, Mimaroğlu‘s answer to all these possibilities was “yes,” reconciled within a single work.

I knew another side of his work from listening to radio shows that Mimaroğlu produced for the Pacifica radio station WBAI. He crafted them at home, only stopping by the station to drop off the tapes. The shows represented, no surprise, an eclectic mix of music.

This reconciling of seeming irreconcilable possibilities tells us much about Ilhan Mimaroğlu.

Some Ilhan Mimaroğlu Aphorisms

“Take an ‘o’ out of ‘good’ and its ‘God’. Add a ‘d’ to ‘evil’ and its ‘devil’. To recognize ‘God’ and ‘evil’ and ‘good’ and ‘devil’, one must be a proofreader.”

“We composers worry so much about posterity that we fail to notice what’s happening to our posterior.”

“Calling a judge ‘justice’ is like calling an artist ‘masterpiece.’”

“You know, there really are many under-appreciate composers. But being under-appreciated doesn’t make someone special! The world is full of them!”

The musical world of the late 1960s and ’70s New York might be categorized as the art of parallel play. Serial composers, largely uptown at Columbia, had little truck with minimalists and other eclectic composers who were largely downtown. Art music and popular music rarely intersected. Composers/performers and producers rarely inhabited the same worlds, never mind the same bodies.

Somehow Ilhan Mimaroğlu embodied each of these, all at the same time. He was an engaged composer and informal teacher, uptown at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. Mimaroğlu, in fact, came to New York to study musicology at Columbia in order to further his journalistic interests. But, having read about, sought out, and then heard electronic music recordings in Turkey, he discovered the Columbia-Princeton studio.

Also during his time at Columbia, Mimaroğlu’s studied privately with Edgard Varèse. “Most of the time, I used to talk to him over the telephone,” he remembered. “One day, he asked me, ‘What do you want to do in New York? What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I want to study with you!’ He said, ‘All right, let’s start!’ […laughs…] So, I would go to his place, something like every week. It was very interesting. I used to write a few things and he would take what I wrote and he’d start adding notes to it.”

The compositions Mimaroğlu completed during his years at Columbia were intuitive in formal approach. He was more sympathetic to Pierre Schaeffer than to the serialists, noting that “particularly the idea that electronic music and cinema were in a parallel, the same thing basically. One is for the eye, the other for the ear. It is the same idea for me and for Pierre Schaeffer.”

In contrast, of Milton Babbitt he said, “I may not be too fond of his music, but I must admit it’s important. It’s beautifully crafted. It’s not always a great pleasure to listen to, but he’s an important composer, yes.”

In Mimaroğlu’s 1965 electronic work for tape Agony, one hears within this construction of abstract sounds clearly discernable musical gestures and phrases. A three-pulse figure becomes a leitmotif, engaging in call and response. What is most striking is the accessibility of the music, despite the unfamiliarity of the sounds, the lack of pitched materials or conventional musical syntax. If anything, the music is like a conversation, and in the final minutes a delightful one at that.

At Columbia-Princeton, Mimaroğlu became an accidental teacher, recalling that “since [Studio director Vladimir] Ussachevsky was a busy person, he would say to me, at the very last minute during an electronic music class: ‘You go teach this class!’ He would just leave and I would take over. This happened a couple of times.”

But Mimaroğlu may have been aesthetically more at home downtown, during a time when there was little cross-fertilization. He befriended two young composers who were active in Mort Subotnick’s Buchla and tape studio on Bleecker Street in the Village. Charlemagne Palestine and Ingram Marshall (who was Mimaroğlu’s fellow musicology student at Columbia) were by day salesmen at Record Hunter on Fifth Avenue and 43nd Street. Palestine recalls that Mimaroğlu was a regular customer whose music he liked. He was “very nice to us. His music had a dramatic tinge to it; it wasn’t so dry. And he also wasn’t a dry professor type of guy. In those old days when the Nonesuch records came out, Silver Apples [of the Moon by Morton Subotnick] came out, and also a piece by him. They were more light, sort of accessible electronic pieces. They weren’t all that serialism. I do remember that. At the time I appreciated it because I was beginning to overdose on all that heavy profundity.”

I’ve wondered about his mixture of seriousness and humor; his disinterest in authority, and, maybe, his sadness.

Mimaroğlu’s jokester side could be disarming. For instance, he had come to admire the music of fellow countryman Bülent Arel, a future important figure at Columbia-Princeton, before either came to New York. “I remember playing a trick on him. I sat at the piano and started banging the keys [Mimaroğlu makes “busy” sounds with his mouth] and recorded it. I said, “Bülent, I want to play you something. It’s a new piece by Stockhausen.” So I played it. With great seriousness, he starts examining it, analyzing it. […laughs…] When I told him what I did, he got very angry.”

But then, there’s a sense of absolute dedication not only to musical expression, but in a larger sense to justice. I asked Mimaroğlu where he gained the sense of moral outrage represented throughout his writings and musical works. He told me that he was raised during an era of serious moral questioning and danger, but within an environment where critical thinking was encouraged:

I guess I grew up in a country where you are allowed to think about such matters. Turkey, the Turkey of Ataturk, was a totally new country. We used to see signs here: ‘“How happy is the person who says ‘I am a Turk’,” for instance. And indeed as I grew up and found out what was going on in other countries of the world, [it became clear] that this was a truly exceptional country, no question about that! Particularly the [World War II] war years…. So, came 1939, and we were all scared that Turkey would be invaded by the Nazis. Thankfully it wasn’t. It came very close. We came to the center of Anatolia, because [we thought that] they were going to come. Then we returned again to Istanbul. Finally in 1945, I remember the day when the Nazis were vanquished and there were celebrations in the street. So, those were important years for me.

Mimaroğlu emerged from this experience having learned a cautionary tale, a profound and large one for a teenager. His father had died when he was still a baby. His mother no doubt felt an additional sense of weight when thinking about the future career of this musically focused child. She supported his interests, provided they remained just an interest. As a result, Mimaroğlu embarked on training for a professional career, as a lawyer, a choice made quite casually, a story he tells with some humor:

My mother wanted me to be an architect, like my father. Since I didn’t know what else to do, I said, “All right, let’s go to that school where they teach architecture.” The people at the school said, “You’ll have to pass an examination to enter.” What is the examination? They put a vase on top of the table and they said [to] draw it, which I did and I failed […laughter…]. What’s that got to do with architecture? So, what do we do with this child? At that time, my mother and stepfather were in Ankara and the only university where you can enter without an examination was the law school. So they said, “Why don’t you enter the law school?” And I said, “Why not?” And I did. And that was the story. Well, I finished it. I have a law diploma that I am keeping […laughter…] somewhere.

The musical young adult decided instead to become a journalist, landing a job with the Associated Press. One thing led to another and he was selected to receive a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to study music journalism at Columbia University.

Mimaroğlu’s sense of commitment to people translated into his concern for young composers. Eric Chasalow, then a student at Columbia-Princeton during Mimaroğlu’s time, is one example. Chasalow, now the Irving Fine Professor of Music at Brandeis University, recalls, “While I did not know him well—Ussachevsky introduced us in about 1979—he programmed my music on his radio program on several occasions. He was a refreshingly no-nonsense guy with no patience for anything but the music. He was very generous to me. He was eager to hear what each generation coming into the Electronic Music Center was doing, and when he heard something he respected, he would support it however he could.”

Arguably, Ilhan Mimaroğlu’s most substantial impact was as a jazz record producer at Atlantic Records. One might not expect a Columbia-Princeton composer to engage with jazz. At Atlantic, Mimaroğlu produced some of the most important recordings of the 1960s, including works by Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman. This was an interest that began early in life. He cultivated it with persistence and, ironically, through a form of intrigue:

I was into jazz all the time growing up. I had a group of friends who were also interested. We used to listen to recordings. I used to play the clarinet. I used to give concerts myself, with this friend or that friend, a guitarist, whatever—it was a jazz group primarily that I was into. At school that’s what I was doing. I used to go to the [school’s] radio station and I started playing records. It was my pleasure. And then one day, the discipline board was in session. I was playing jazz records again. They sent someone, made me turn off the radio and gave me a punishment. […laughs…] That I told to my mother and she went to the director of the school and said, “Is it a bad thing that the child plays music to his friends? Does he interfere with his classes? Why are you doing this?” On that day, they permitted me again to play music on the sound system, but the punishment remained in my [academic] records. And mother didn’t tell me [until] after I finished school, so I didn’t get spoiled [from] what she did to protect me.

Ilhan Mimaroğlu became a record producer, he explained to me, “just to earn some money…. When I came here on a Rockefeller Fellowship, I had heard about Ahmed Ertegun [and] Nesuhi Ertegun, and I went to visit their offices. I remember Nesuhi taking me to a nightclub to hear Errol Garner. That’s one of the memories, yes… They were jazz experts. So they said go ahead and do jazz, do whatever you want.” After a time, Mimaroglu expressed interest in producing recordings with less commercial potential. “I just wanted to do some recordings and release some that wouldn’t sell. […laughs…]. So, [my label] Finnadar was born. They were happy to let me do it.” The label became an offprint of Atlantic Records. The Ertegun brothers were supportive and told him that they would keep paying, as long as he didn’t spend too much money. “And I knew how not to spend much money!” said Mimaroğlu. The array of Finnadar recordings would include works by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Mimaroğlu’s own work, and that of many others.

Open-minded yet sometimes quite sure of himself, warm and sometimes cantankerous, Ilhan Mimaroğlu was at his core complex and mysterious. His life was one of musical multiplicities. While living in the United States, he and his wife maintained strong ties with their homeland. Throughout his life, Mimaroğlu continued to write and publish in Turkish. While the music of this eclectic composer remains little known, he produced iconic records and created works of depth and breadth. Hopefully the passage of time will help motivate greater interest in the music of this truly fascinating man. Surely over time, stories will continue to emerge about his kindness and commitment to students and colleagues.


Please note: The following audio files—recorded during Bob Gluck’s January 3, 2006, interview with Ilhan Mimaroğlu—are unedited and unprocessed and are occasionally less than optimal. They are presented here due to their historic importance.

Part One of Bob Gluck’s January 3, 2006 interview with Ilhan Mimaroğlu.
Part Two of Bob Gluck’s January 3, 2006 interview with Ilhan Mimaroğlu

Part Three of Bob Gluck’s January 3, 2006 interview with Ilhan Mimaroğlu


Bob Gluck is a pianist, music historian, and educator. He is associate professor at The University at Albany and the author of You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band (University of Chicago Press, 2012). His latest recording, Textures and Pulsations, a series of piano and electronics duets with Aruan Ortiz, will be released this fall on Ictus Records.

Celebration: Remembering—A Tribute to Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer

Trombonist and composer-arranger Bob Brookmeyer was born in 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri, ground zero for the original Count Basie Orchestra, which young Bobby B. first heard play live at the Tower Theatre when he was 11 years old. (“Basie gave me my first full-body thrill” was how Bob was fond of putting it.) He died on December 15, 2011, just three days shy of what would have been his 82nd birthday. He began playing and writing professionally at age 14, and remained active and vital right up to the end—his final recording, Standards, was released just two weeks before he left us. The album is a fitting coda to a rich musical life—it feels like the concentrated distillation of Bob’s entire career, a return to the classic American songbook tunes he loved, filtered through a lifetime of compositional exploration.

Brookmeyer first started attracting notice in the early 1950s as a member of groups led by Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. His gruff, burnished tone and fluid, conversational phrasing on valve trombone made him an instant favorite on the jazz scene, a musician’s musician. At the same time, he was working as an arranger-for-hire out of copyist Emile Charlap’s office—among other things, he ended up ghostwriting a couple of arrangements on the album The Genius of Ray Charles. In 1958 he joined the Jimmy Giuffre 3, which featured the unorthodox combination of Giuffre’s saxophone and clarinet with Brookmeyer’s valve trombone and Jim Hall’s guitar—the group can be seen and heard during the opening credit sequence to Bert Stern’s classic concert film Jazz on a Summer’s Day . He was also an accomplished pianist, having held the piano chair in bands led by Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, and in 1959, he famously went head-to-head with no less than Bill Evans, in a two-piano record called The Ivory Hunters. It wasn’t Bob’s idea—he’d assumed he would be playing trombone, and only discovered otherwise when he arrived at the date—but he more than holds up his end.

Bob Brookmeyer had a profound impact on multiple generations of musicians, from the legendary figures he came to prominence playing with, to the bright-eyed eighteen-year olds he’d encounter at conservatory workshops. Memories of the man and his music are shared in this post from:
Darcy James Argue
Jim Hall
Bill Holman
Jim McNeely
Joe Lovano
Maria Schneider
John Hollenbeck
Kris Goessens
Bill Kirchner
Dave Rivello
Ayn Inserto
Matana Roberts
Ryan Truesdell
Clark Terry

But it was in the 1960s that Brookmeyer came into his own. He became the principal arranger, lead trombonist, and “straw boss” (de facto music director) for Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band, a nimble 13-piece outfit that was in many ways the precursor for another important large ensemble, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, in which Brookmeyer played lead trombone, and for which he wrote five stone classics: the originals “ABC Blues” and “Samba Con Getchu,” and evocative re-imaginings of “St. Louis Blues,” “Willow Tree,” and “Willow Weep For Me.” During this time, he also co-led a popular quintet with Clark Terry—like the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band (but unusually for the time) the Terry-Brookmeyer Quintet had shared leadership between a black musician and a white one.

In 1968, depressed about declining opportunities in New York, Brookmeyer moved out to California. He kept busy playing on film scores and such in the Hollywood recording studios, but essentially abandoned any kind of creative involvement in music. He was drinking heavily and popping pills. He was 38 years old when he left New York, and did not expect he’d live much longer.

Instead, in 1977, something changed. He went into recovery and began playing jazz again, with Bill Holman’s Los Angeles-based ensemble. In 1978, Stan Getz hired him back for a European tour, and he made his first jazz record in over a decade—Back Again, with pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist George Mraz, and his old friends Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. After Thad moved to Copenhagen, Mel invited Brookmeyer to rejoin the orchestra as composer-in-residence, ushering in a period of creative rejuvenation that surely ranks as one of the most incredible comebacks in American music.

He began studying composition with New York School composer Earle Brown and conducting with Joel Thome. He recorded two career-defining albums of new music with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, Bob Brookmeyer Composer-Arranger and Make Me Smile. He also started composing for and recording with several European state-sponsored jazz ensembles, including the Cologne-based WDR Band and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra. He wrote spiky big-M modernist orchestral works, like his Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, featuring Jim Hall with the Stockholm Radio Symphony, and a Double Concerto for Two Orchestras. He began teaching at the Manhattan School of Music, and co-founded the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop with Manny Albam. During this time, Bob also met the love of his life, Jan, who became his wife and partner—everyone who knows her knows what a positive, transformative influence she had on him.

In 1991, Bob and Jan moved to Rotterdam, where he laid the foundations for what he called the World School of Jazz, an ambitious undertaking that sadly never took root. But it helped plant the seed for Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra, a large ensemble he founded in 1995, using handpicked, mostly young, mostly European musicians. It was the first and only big band Brookmeyer would ever lead under his own name. Under his direction, they recorded five albums of his music. Meanwhile, Bob and Jan had returned to the United States and settled in New Hampshire. He began teaching at the New England Conservatory in 1997 and remained on faculty there for the next ten years, well into his seventies.


I had seen Bob Brookmeyer live with the Danish Radio Big Band at a jazz conference in 1994, but my first actual interaction with him happened online. Sometime in the late ‘90s, Bob started posting a series of commentaries to his web site. He called them “Currents.” Essentially it was a blog before there were blogs. He would opine on all manner of things—football and politics, but also music. Like any good blogger, Bob was keenly aware that it’s the most opinionated, critical posts that attract the most attention, and he was never one to sugarcoat. At one point, Bob posted something dismissive about a musician I greatly admire, and I must admit, I took the bait.

This would have been in 1999. I was 24 years old and living in Montreal. I’d begun teaching an introductory arranging class at McGill, and I wanted to discuss one of Bob’s scores with my students. I had many questions, so I emailed Bob to ask about various mysterious details in the music. And then, at the end of my email, I could not resist mentioning that I’d read what he’d written about so-and-so, and I didn’t think he was giving him a fair shake.

I don’t know that I really expected a response. But Bob got back to me right away (within a few hours, if memory serves), kindly answered all my naive questions about his music, and proffered an even more pointed and detailed critique of the artist than what he’d originally written. But after that, we got to corresponding, and eventually Bob suggested that I send him some of my own music.

I was terrified, of course, but how do you refuse an offer like that? I remember my hands were shaking as I put the package down on the post office counter. Included was a score and recording of a piece I’d written, Sang-Froid, a shameless carbon copy of Maria Schneider’s early work, with bits pilfered from Kenny Wheeler thrown in for good measure. At best, it was maybe a semi-competent bit of derivative juvenilia (and that’s being extraordinarily generous), but Bob must have seen the spark of something in it, because he invited me to study with him at NEC. Things were finally starting to go well for me in Montreal and I hadn’t planned on pursing a graduate degree, but now Bob had made me an offer I really couldn’t refuse.

I began at NEC in the fall of 2000, still terrified. But Bob turned out to be the most exceptional teacher I’ve ever encountered. Lots of jazz musicians take teaching gigs because they need the money, or they enjoy basking in the admiration of young people. Bob did not take up the mantle of educator lightly—he was as serious about teaching as he was about composing or playing. He had developed a repertoire of assignments, which he gave to all of his students—white-note exercises, intervallic exercises, rhythmic exercises—but as he learned what a student required, he would tailor his approach to each individual. He didn’t do anything by rote, and he judged everyone’s work by the same impossible standards he set for himself.

It’s funny, though. During our first several months together, Bob played his cards uncharacteristically close to the vest. I remember my fellow composition majors trading stories about how mercilessly he would dissect their work. But whenever I would bring in the chart I was plugging away at, Bob wouldn’t say much of anything! He would listen attentively to the recording and perform a detailed examination of the score, but declined to offer any sort of feedback, other than, “Okay…what comes next?” I began to fear that Bob considered my work so thoroughly unremarkable that he could not even be bothered to voice a critique! Finally, as we neared the end of the semester and I had completed the piece—a 13-minute blowout called “Lizard Brain”—and Bob saw the double barline at the end, then the dissection began. (It was gloriously merciless.) Bob later told me: “I could see that you were pushing yourself to do something different, something you didn’t exactly know how to do. But the wheels seemed to be turning okay on their own. I didn’t want to stop the bus before you got to wherever it was that you were headed.”

It’s impossible to imagine what my life would have been like without Bob. Certainly I would never have had the guts or the wherewithal to move to New York or start my own big band! After I left Boston, we kept in intermittent contact—I wasn’t as close to him as some, but I tried to keep him abreast of whatever I had going on. I have a treasure trove of concise but unfailingly encouraging correspondence from Bob: “Congratulations! Very pleased you are making a dent in the big city.” “Good news, my friend!!! Keep it up.” “I have been meaning to congratulate on the commission—read about it and am proud as always.” During his 80th birthday celebration concert at Eastman, I got to sit next to him in the audience as the students played their hearts out on perilously difficult material, like “The Nasty Dance” and “Say Ah.” I’d catch little sidelong glimpses of him beaming with admiration. It’s one of my favorite memories.

Bob's 80th Birthday Concert

(L to R) Dave Rivello, Ryan Truesdell, Bob Brookmeyer, and myself,
from Bob’s 80th Birthday Concert at Eastman.

When Secret Society was invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival last year, on George Wein’s suggestion I invited Bob to play a piece with us, one that I would write to feature him. When he accepted, it was beyond terrifying—writing for Bob! At Newport, no less! What the hell was I thinking? It was without a doubt the hardest thing I’d ever had to write. But when the festival weekend came around, Bob fell sick and wasn’t able to make it. He told me afterwards that he owed me a recording, but unfortunately we were never able to make that happen. I also desperately wanted him to hear a recording of the music from Brooklyn Babylon, the multimedia production I co-created with Danijel Zezelj and premiered at BAM last month. Sadly, he passed just days before we finished mixing.

The most important lesson Bob taught me, the one I hope will last me a lifetime, is the importance of patience. You’ve got to give each musical idea time and space not just to be heard, but to be appreciated. Bob’s best music is full of moments of tremendous power that are only possible because he’s set them up so patiently. In life, Bob was not always an entirely patient man, and he was not always fully appreciated. He never really got his due—his music is not widely known outside of a small community of devotees. (Several of his most influential recordings, including Make Me Smile, have languished out of print for years.) But amongst musicians, his status is properly legendary. Bob packed several lifetimes’ worth of music into almost 82 years of living. Now the rest of us have the rest of our lives to try to catch up to where he left off.


Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall

Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall

Jim Hall was the guitarist in the innovative bass-less, drummer-less edition of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, which included Brookmeyer on valve trombone and Giuffre on saxophones and clarinet. One of Bob’s most beloved recordings was Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival 1979, which documents a duo concert with Jim Hall. In 1984, Jim premiered Brookmeyer’s Guitar Concerto with the Stockholm Radio Symphony.

In New York in the ’50s, the scene was pretty amazing, especially around Greenwich Village. There were jam sessions at artists’ lofts, hosted by painters like Ray Parker, Willem De Kooning…Gil Evans was around, and George Russell, Jimmy Rainey, Bill Crow. That’s where I really got to know Bob. We did a lot of playing together at those late-night sessions, with all different configurations of instruments.

Somehow, the trio with Giuffre seemed pretty normal to me. Bobby just could fit in anywhere; it was very easy making music with him, actually, in a duet or a trio or anything. In Giuffre’s trio, we went through several different bass players, but then we got to hanging out with Bob, and it worked so easily that it just seemed natural to get him in the trio.

[On Brookmeyer’s Guitar Concerto] I had never fooled around with any foot pedals on the guitar. I sort of stayed away from those, but Bob had it written in my part that he wanted this effect and that effect, so he broadened my feeling about the guitar. That’s the kind of musician Bob was: if there was something there to be done, he’d find a way to do it. And it was really a thrill to play with a symphony orchestra.

He was an incredibly bright, inventive, creative guy, with a great sense of humor, really. In a way, I think of the painters from those loft parties, Parker, De Kooning…an artist needn’t get just frozen in one place. I’m sure that’s kind of the way Bob felt about it. It certainly is the way I do as well.


Bill Holman is a contemporary of Brookmeyer’s, a composer-arranger living in Los Angeles. His tribute to Bob, “Septuagenary Revels,” opens Madly Loving You, an album celebrating Brookmeyer’s 70th birthday.

When Bob made his first record with Stan Getz, I read a review that said he’d played some “erudite solos.” I wanted to see what an erudite soloist was like, and he was coming to town, playing at the Lighthouse, so I went down to meet him… with some trepidation, not quite knowing about erudite people. Within in a few minutes, we were at a liquor store buying a bottle of scotch, so you know, we got together very quickly, and we’ve been good friends ever since.

Years later, when he first went into recovery, everyone was so glad to see him straight, you know? He came in to my band and made several rehearsals and some gigs—I was recovering myself, so I was trying to get my writing going again. And then those first two albums he did for Mel Lewis’s band [Bob Brookmeyer Composer/Arranger and Make Me Smile] really killed me. I knew he’d been getting back together as well, and I was really anxious to hear the result, and they were great.

But then he kind of repudiated the things he’d done before—he disowned them, practically. He didn’t want to have too much to do with the jazz business. He was very eager to get his contemporary chops going. When he wrote the [Gerry] Mulligan tribute [Celebration Suite, composed 1994], I think he kind of reconnected with jazz during that time…I think his music lightened up quite a bit after that. He was allowing himself to hear all those things he’d heard before.


Jim McNeely and Bob Brookmeyer

Jim McNeely and Bob Brookmeyer

Jim McNeely was the pianist in the Mel Lewis Orchestra when Brookmeyer returned to the band in 1980 and became the group’s composer-in-residence—a position now held by Jim, who also holds down the piano chair in the group, now known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

The first arrangement Bob wrote for Mel was “Skylark.” I remember Bob saying to me, “If this doesn’t work, I’m just going to not bother anymore.” The first time we played it, I was absolutely blown away. I thought, “Geez, this is an amazing piece of writing….I guess this means he’ll be around for a while.”

Then he started to bring in the rest of the music that would be on his first album with Mel’s band [Bob Brookmeyer Composer-Arranger]—”First Love Song” and “Ding Dong Ding” were the first time I’d ever encountered that kind of thing, where the band stops and you’ve got to just play—the elevator door opens up and there’s no elevator waiting for you!

The music from the next record, Make Me Smile, really opened my ears up; it made me think about form in a different way. There was also what I thought of as a dry kind of tension in his harmony that I really liked. Being a dutiful young jazz pianist in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I was into some of the newer kinds of harmonies, especially major 7th sharp 5 chords, and Bob was really intrigued by all that. So the piece he wrote to feature me [“McNeely’s Piece”] was full of ’em—I mean, god, there was a whole sequence to play over, moving up in fourths….He kind of called my own bluff, you know? “Oh, yeah, you’re into that chord? Well here, try playing on this!” It was really hard!

We never played that piece too much after we recorded it. I dug it, but I think it was a little too acerbic for what Mel wanted to be doing with the band. Bob was studying with Earle Brown and getting into a lot of postwar contemporary orchestral and chamber writing….He wrote one called “XYZ,” there was one called “The German Hit Parade,” there was “Ezra Pound”…. Mel tried to hang in there with it as long as he could, but I think for people coming to the [Village] Vanguard…they weren’t responding. Bob said that he “wrote his way out of Mel’s band,” which is pretty close to the truth. It was amicable when they parted ways. Mel realized that Bob’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, and I think Bob realized, “Well, I’ve got to find another place to work out this stuff, ’cause it’s not going to work at the Vanguard.”

I remember telling Mel, “You know, he’s going to learn a lot doing this stuff, and I think some day he’s going to come back and meet somewhere in the middle”—which I think he did. The last number of things he wrote were rhythmically pretty straight-ahead, but his sense of form, and the storyline and the shape were just magnificently structured. And I think everything he was doing in his last few years with the New Art Orchestra, it was all informed by what he had learned in the process of really sticking his neck out there for a while.


Saxophonist Joe Lovano, like McNeely, was a member of the Mel Lewis Orchestra during in the 1980s. The two of them were also members of Brookmeyer’s ’80s sextet, a group which also included Dick Oatts (alto saxophone), Michael Moore (bass), and either Mel Lewis or Adam Nussbaum (drums).

My dad [saxophonist Tony Lovano] had a great record collection. Jim Hall was from Cleveland too, and was a friend of my dad’s, so we had the Jimmy Giuffre 3 recordings with Jim and Bob…also the Stan Getz band, and the stuff with Gerry Mulligan—I heard all those things growing up. And Bob just touched me immediately, with his tone and beautiful approach…so melodic, you know? And that way of playing, that contrapuntal improvisation, became what it was all about for me. The roots of that, of course, are in New Orleans, but the modern jazz players of Bob’s generation really set the pace for the whole creative flow of the music. That way of playing became really important for me.

I was also really into the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, those early records with “Willow Weep For Me” and all those pieces Bob orchestrated and wrote. The band came to Cleveland when I was a senior in high school, and that was a big thing. I was like, “Man, how do I get myself together to play in that band someday?” It was something to reach for.

Ten years later [in 1980], I joined the band, right around the time Bob came back. We went to Europe, and Bob fronted the band on that tour. He was conducting and playing his ass off! He would lift the entire band with his ideas, his rhythm, his phrasing…that was the first time I really played with him, stood toe-to-toe with him.

When we went in for the first rehearsal of the Make Me Smile charts, we didn’t know what Bob was bringing in….It was incredible to play through that music. “The Nasty Dance” was a feature for me that had a lot of free, open spaces in it, and also amazing harmonic sequences….It had many things within that form. It was something he wrote for me, he gave me a lot of trust, so right from the get-go, it was like, wow, I have a lot of room to be myself—and yet, I have to deal with playing this structure. There are a lot of open moments where it’s up to you as a soloist to tie things together and to play with a sense of orchestration. That was the beauty of Bob’s writing: he was a collaborator. He created environments and atmospheres in his music for others to create within.


Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider

Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider

In 1985, Maria Schneider received an NEA Apprenticeship Grant to study with Brookmeyer, before going on to become the most acclaimed composer and bandleader of her generation. Through it all, she remained close to Bob and was instrumental in persuading him to record what would be his final album, Standards, for which she also wrote the liner notes.

When I first started studying with Bob, I was kind of baffled by him, baffled by all the questions he would ask me, “Why is there a solo? Why do you have chord changes there?” He would ask me about things that, to me, were just the most obvious and only solutions. And then slowly, what I started to distill from everything, subliminally, was, “Wow, I guess there are a lot more choices. We don’t have to write jazz big band music as if we’re putting up a prefab house, here.”

This was also exactly when I met Gil Evans, so I was working for Gil and studying with Bob Brookmeyer at the same time. What was interesting is that Bob used to express a little bit of intimidation about the mystery of Gil, he so admired him…and Gil was the same way about Bob. I had mentioned to Gil that I was studying with Bob, and Gil started saying, “Oh my god, he’s so amazing, he’s so intellectual…” and I could tell that Gil sort of shrunk in his confidence. Not that either of these two people were competitive in that way. It wasn’t that so much as just this admiration that made them wonder if somehow I was comparing them to each other. And I thought it was so beautiful. It was like, wow, here’s two men whose music is so different from each other, yet both so powerful, and they both have such tremendous reverence for each other.

In our lessons, Bob would throw his arm in the air with the pencil, almost like he was conducting something, using the body to show how he wanted you to get strength and power into the music, to not sit there and just be all in the head—to make the music physical.

We became close friends, but you know, I was always still a little scared of Bob—he was so intense, I always approached him with a little bit of fear. But for being so intimidating and scary, when you needed support and kindness, there was not a more generous soul and heart on the planet than Bob.


New Art Orchestra--Madly Loving You session

New Art Orchestra–Madly Loving You session

John Hollenbeck was the drummer in the New Art Orchestra, a handpicked group of mostly European musicians (Hollenbeck was the exception) which Brookmeyer assembled in 1995 and continued to lead for the rest of his life. The following is excerpted, with John’s kind permission, from the extensive Brookmeyer tribute he has posted to his website—I implore you to read the whole thing.

The New Art Orchestra evolved out of The Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Big Band, which was initially run through the auspices of this northern Germany Festival. We performed as the S-H MF Big Band at the Festival and in subsequent years, we’d get on a bus afterwards and head out to perform in other cities as the New Art Orchestra. Bob used to joke that once we drove far enough out of town, it was time to change the sign on the bus to the “New Art Orchestra.”

From the beginning, Bob taught NAO how to be a band. He had this educational talent that is unique, mainly due to his exhaustive experience and dedication. His musical life was a personal trip through jazz history. We worked persistently on sound, phrasing, and ensemble playing. He told me, as the drummer, what he loved about Mel and Elvin too, but mostly Mel, the drummer/magician who had the unique gift to make a band sound great with grace and coolness. But he also said: Do not even bother trying to copy, because no matter how close you get, you will never be Mel. But knowing what Mel did that Bob loved was extremely helpful. He told me to play with perceived abandon while never forgetting about the groove or setting up the band, but making it all sound like a happy coincidence. He always wanted a lot of activity on the snare drum so that the band could always feel the beat. Cracking the code on how to play drums in a big band is what I imagine learning to drive an 18-wheeler is like. Bob coached me for years until I got to the point where I could easily conjure his advice in my head and integrate it as I was playing.

The New Art Orchestra meant a lot not only to the players, but also to Bob—to have a band of young, enthusiastic people who loved him and listened intently to every word he said was a gift that Bob sincerely appreciated and he told us this often. We learned so much about music and how to make exceptional music with a large group of people.


Bob Brookmeyer and Kris Goessens

Bob Brookmeyer and Kris Goessens

Kris Goessens was the pianist in the New Art Orchestra, and also performed and recorded with Brookmeyer in more intimate groups, including a duo that became one of Bob’s favorite playing situations.

He was an incredibly intelligent man, able to express and grab the essence of things in just a couple of words, just as he did with his music. I’ll never forget the time we were playing duo for a week in La Villa in Paris. One of those nights, we ended the concert with “In Your Own Sweet Way.” As we never planned anything in advance, we ended up playing single lines together for about six, seven minutes, or maybe even longer, as an outro. We were skating, a very nice blend in sound, time, and contour of the melodic lines. When we finished, it was clear by the audience’s reaction that they had just experienced what we had. As we got off stage Brookmeyer turned and said, “They believed us.”

I was lucky to have spent time with Bob and his amazing life companion, Jan, while they were living in Rotterdam. We spent a couple of years playing in duo for hours at my home, three times a week, listening to and talking about music and life, to always end up playing chess.

During that period, he founded his New Art Orchestra, for which he wanted to engage young musicians. He knew exactly which ingredients he needed for his band. One could apply to audition by sending a recording, and I remember that Bob would know in a few seconds who he wanted, why, and on which chair in the band. Hardly any changes have been made ever since. Playing his music with these musicians is like playing in a large ensemble with the feeling of small ensemble.

I know Bob loved Jan a lot. His words were, “It’s hard not to…” and this I can only confirm. I think Bob and the guys would allow me to say that she is an important member of the band. The lady who breathes love. Without Jan it would have been very difficult to keep the band going and make the recordings and concerts we did.


Bill Kirchner is a jazz musician, producer, historian, and educator. He contributed the liner notes to the Mosaic Records box sets The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band Sessions and The Complete Solid State Recordings of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, among other important documents of Brookmeyer’s work. His composition Variations On A Theme By Brookmeyer was recently premiered by the Manhattan School of Music Concert Jazz Band.

Bob Brookmeyer’s growth as a musician, especially as a composer-arranger, was one of the most extraordinary evolutions in jazz history. He began as a distinctive and progressive, but still rather mainstream, jazz musician in the 1950s and ‘60s. But from the late ‘70s onward, his writing in particular took on a more unusual flavor, inspired considerably by his interest in such contemporary classical composers as Witold Lutoslawski and Earle Brown. He also became more interested in expanding the possibilities of form and development in jazz composition. As he told his students, “Don’t introduce an improvising soloist until you’ve exhausted every other possibility.”


Dave Rivello and Bob Brookmeyer

Dave Rivello and Bob Brookmeyer

Dave Rivello is a composer/bandleader based in Rochester, New York, and was Bob’s longtime copyist, confidant, and friend. He organized the 80th birthday tribute concert at the Eastman School of Music.

Back in 1995, on [arranger] Manny Albam’s recommendation, Bob contacted me and hired me as a copyist for the piece he had written for Clark Terry’s 75th birthday. It was a four-movement suite, and I never copied so fast in my life! Pages were coming in by FedEx every day…. When I was calling him with copying questions, I mentioned that I’d really like to take a lesson with him sometime, and he told me, “Okay, we can work that out. You can come here and bring some of your music, and then you can decide if you want to work with me and I’ll decide if I want to work with you.” And I remember thinking, well, half of that equation is already figured out!

So for my first lesson, I flew to Hanover, New Hampshire [from Rochester, New York]. He picked me up from the airport in his Camaro, we had our first lesson, he drove me back to the airport, and I flew back to Rochester, but I had a four-hour layover in Philadelphia, so it was like a 23-hour day by the time I got home…and I couldn’t remember anything Bob had told me! I didn’t bring a recorder, either! But over the course of the next several days, it all sort of sifted out in my brain….It was the beginning of 15 amazing years that I had with Bob.

I consider my time with him a doctorate without the piece of paper. What he taught me and what he gave me, I’ll still be figuring out when I’m 80 years old.


Bob Brookmeyer and Ayn Inserto

Bob Brookmeyer and Ayn Inserto

I first met composer Ayn Inserto when we were both students at NEC. She was instrumental in organizing the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, a student ensemble directed by Bob and dedicated to performing works by NEC jazz composition majors. She currently leads her own Boston-based jazz orchestra.

I remember when I was going through a tough time emotionally during my second semester at NEC, I said to him, “I don’t know if I’ll be one hundred percent at my lesson,” and he told me, “You need to come up here this weekend!” So I went up to his home in New Hampshire, and we just hung out and listened to music. He took me and Jan to dinner, and then at the end of the night, he gave me this look and asked, “You wanna get some ice cream?” So there was Bob Brookmeyer, in the middle of Ben and Jerry’s in mid-February, counting change and buying me ice cream, as if he was, like, “Uncle” Bob!

His voice is always still in my head—my favorite thing that he says is: “You can’t get attached to your tune; you’ve got to be able to able to take it apart, or throw it away.” He would talk about “taking your ear and putting down on the table”…meaning listening as if you’re not you, as if you hadn’t written it.


Saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts is another friend from my NEC days. In addition to his private teaching and his stewardship of the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Brookmeyer also used to teach improvisation workshops, which is where Matana first encountered Bob.

I remember I was afraid to go to this workshop because I knew it would be me and a bunch of really amazing traditional bop players, and I was worried I would stand out uncomfortably. Anyhow, Bob immediately welcomed me and, after my first solo, made the whole band stop and lectured the other guys good-naturedly on how important it is to find an original voice in this music. I was floored by his kindness. He also made some hilarious, slightly off-color jokes about white folks that I greatly appreciated, being the only black person/woman in the room. It made us all laugh at the ridiculousness of difference.

He was really open to modernism, but still dedicated to traditionalism in a way that was so refreshing—which is not something I can say about everyone of his generation. I don’t know where he got it from. I think it might have been because he came up around so many innovators…and also was thankful just to still be out there.

But above all that, he had a deep, critical integrity towards his own work, and I hope that’s his lasting legacy. He inspires me to have high critical standards towards my own approach. He inspires me to keep asking questions.


John Hollenbeck, Bob Brookmeyer, and Ryan Truesdell

John Hollenbeck, Bob Brookmeyer, and Ryan Truesdell
in Hamburg, December 2010, working with the NDR

Composer Ryan Truesdell also studied with Brookmeyer at NEC, and in recent years became one of Bob’s most valued associates. In addition to working as his assistant, copyist, and archivist, he actively persued making Brookmeyer’s scores and parts available from his website, and produced his recent radio recording with the Hamburg-based NDR Bigband.

There aren’t too many people around who have the kind of history that Bob had—and he was completely and utterly clear about all of it, too. He remembered what he had for lunch on some day in 1945. It was incredible!

These last few years were tough for him; he would have these bouts of fatigue and his health would kind of roller coaster up and down. But throughout all of that, he always had this laundry list of things that he wanted to do. He was very ambitious with his planning. Whatever his health situation was, Bob was always looking for the next new great project that would challenge him and offer him some sort of education within his own writing.

I was fortunate enough to see Bob rehearse a lot of bands: student bands, European groups, the Vanguard band. And leading up to the rehearsal, he might not have been feeling well; he might have been sick in bed for the past week. But whatever his mood was beforehand, the minute walked into that rehearsal and sat down on a stool in front of the podium, he was in his element. It was like he was twenty-five years old again.

He loved working with young musicians, even though it was exhausting for him, because he would just pour out every bit of energy that he had to share. I know that he was still buying CDs like crazy; anybody’s new CD that would come out, he’d give it a listen. Probably nine times out of ten he didn’t like it—but he was always interested in wanting to hear where music was going and what people were doing.


Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer

Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer

Terry and Brookmeyer

Trumpeter-fluegelhornist Clark Terry is one of Bob’s oldest and dearest friends. In the ’60s, they were both members of the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, and co-led an influential quintet. Over the years, Brookmeyer wrote a number of pieces to feature Clark, including “El Co” from Bob Brookmeyer Composer/Arranger and a 75th birthday suite, the first movement of which is viewable on YouTube. The following is reprinted, with permission, from Terry’s 2011 autobiography, Clark.

Bob Brookmeyer and I had a “mutual admiration society,” loved playing together, so much so that we got a little group together in the early ‘60s. We named it the Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet and got a nice gig going at the Half Note—Eddie Costa on piano, Osie Johnson on drums, and Joe Benjamin on bass. It was one of the best groups ever. [N.B. later it was Roger Kellaway (piano) Bill Crow (bass), and Dave Bailey (drums).]

The harmony that Bob and I had was super. I was digging the valve trombone that Bob played because that was the first instrument I was given in high school, but the way its sound married with my flugelhorn sound was something special. We could feel each other’s next moves and enjoyed the way we managed to play simultaneously throughout the changes. We called it “noodling.” Usually one player wants to outshine the other, but we had a way of blending together that allowed both of us to shine. We really tried to make each other sound beautiful.

Terry, who just celebrated his 91st birthday, is currently recovering from major surgery. His wife, Gwen, has released the following statement via his website :

Clark was very, very saddened when he heard that Bob had passed away. After he gained his composure, he said, “We had a very special friendship. We knew that we loved each other.” He wasn’t able to say much more.

Not much more needs to be said. Rest in peace, Bob. We loved you madly.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Lukas Foss


Christian Carey with Lukas Foss in 2004

1. Lukas Foss was not one for pigeonholes. An accomplished pianist, conductor, and composer, his path charted an ambitious geography, including Europe, Israel, and numerous locations in the United States: New York City, Southern California, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Bridgehampton. His early career included studies with Hindemith at Yale and a wunderkind era of appearances throughout the country as a piano soloist and up-and-coming composer.

2. Lukas was a college professor for much of his career, at UCLA, SUNY Buffalo, Carnegie-Mellon, and Boston University. I studied with him at BU during 1995-96. Lukas packed all of his teaching into one day a week, flying up from New York to work with composition students and, sometimes, to conduct the university orchestra. Every other week, he met with students for private sessions. Lukas was a phenomenal pianist. One of my favorite things about the lessons was hearing him blaze through my drafts, perfectly sight-reading them up-to-tempo; sometimes faster! Lukas frequently played Beethoven excerpts too; talking with great enthusiasm about technical details, as well as the great composer’s sense of drama and humor.

3. On alternate weeks, Lukas and his assistant, Apostolos Paraskevas, would arrange for readings of student pieces, usually of solo works. During the course of the year, students in Foss’s studio would be required to write a new piece every two weeks. We’d meet as a group to hear each others’ compositions read. Foss would discuss each instrument’s capabilities and comment on our efforts.

4. Some composition teachers will encourage their students to extensively edit and rework their music; Lukas took a different approach. He tended to comment on what he felt worked and didn’t work in a piece. Then, he would encourage you to apply those principals to the next thing you composed. “Keep writing!” he’d say.

5. It was fascinating to watch Lukas in action at a week-long celebration of his music given at Avery Fisher Hall by the New York Philharmonic in 1995, conducted by Kurt Masur. Lukas took copious notes throughout the rehearsals, but was gracious to both the conductor and musicians, choosing his battles wisely and his criticisms carefully.

6. About Lukas as a conductor: his technique was never the prettiest, but he knew how to get results. One of the best performances I’ve ever heard of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was Lukas leading the BU student orchestra. He brought out more spirit, musicality, and yes, details, than one ever would have thought possible with an amateur group, making an old warhorse seem fresh and vital again.

7. Perhaps Lukas’s greatest contributions as a conductor were in somewhat modest settings. He helped a number of emerging professional orchestras develop into fine ensembles. While this was certainly true of his time in Buffalo and Milwaukee, he’s probably best known for transforming the Brooklyn Philharmonic into a top-notch group capable of assaying challenging repertoire, incorporating a great deal of contemporary music into their programs.

8. Works: Symphony No. 4, String Quartet No. 5, Tashi, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Time Cycle, Renaissance Concerto; choosing favorites among Lukas’s pieces is not easy. Many have commented on the difficulty of evaluating his catalog in any kind of systematic way; its creator was such a compositional polyglot, an enthusiastic composer in many, many styles. That in itself serves as a kind of composition lesson. Too often, today’s composers are defined by their stylistic profile, their relative merit weighed against the trends of the day. Lukas was more than happy to try out different styles—Americana, neoclassicism, aleatory, avant-garde, minimalism—but not due to the whims of fashion. Rather, he was spurred by a genuine curiosity, eager to explore music in many forms and create pieces that reveled in the inspiration of the moment, rather than worrying about how a particular piece “fit” in his catalog or bolstered his profile.

9. Echoi: Improvisation played an important role in Lukas’s activities and output from the 1950s and 60s. It was another facet of his inquisitive nature; another musical problem to be assayed; and a joyfully simultaneous expression of his enthusiasms for performance and composition. The quality of the works from this period varies, as does the degree to which improvisation is successfully integrated. At its best, in the piece Echoi, there is a spontaneity and organic character to the wedding of improv and composed music which provides a beautiful result. Lukas’s engagement with the practice was a bold maneuver, and a fruitful one. It helped to free his music from its previous, somewhat conservative bent and from there on in imbued it with a sense of surprise. One never knew quite what each successive work by Lukas might have in store, but one always knew that it would be interesting. Indeed, groups like Alarm Will Sound, Icebreaker, and Bang on a Can owe a debt to Lukas. His forays into free improvisation in a concert music context mark Lukas as a kindred spirit and worthy predecessor for the current, fertile Downtown scene.

10. At BU, Lukas would frequently pass by the students at work in the lounge area of the music building, poring over scores or correcting parts. He’d peer over the composers’ shoulders, playfully make faux sweeping comments: “Too diatonic! Put in more dynamics! Where’s this phrase going?” On the way back from the beverage machine, Lukas would often pass along an extra cup of cocoa or coffee.

11. The last time I saw Lukas was in 2004. The Music Festival of the Hamptons had programmed Mourning Madrid, my piece for live locomotive and orchestra. Lukas was a fixture of the festival: advising on the programming, conducting, and appearing as a piano soloist.

12. Bach: another touchstone for Lukas. The concert in the Hamptons also included a performance of Brandenburg Five with Lukas as soloist. Even as an octogenarian, his Bach was thrilling to hear. Lukas’s Bach would not have wooed some early music buffs: his use of ornamentation was restrained and he played the piano like a big concert grand, with no intimations of the harpsichord. Of ornamentation in Baroque music, Lukas said, “One can use plenty of ornaments in some of the lesser Baroque composers; but I don’t think that Bach requires too much more than what he wrote!” Hearing Lukas play the Brandenburg was like watching an affectionate conversation between old friends; Bach informed his compositional and performance decisions throughout his career.

13. In a conversation after the Hamptons concert, I thanked Lukas for his generosity at our first meeting, when he’d listened to a tape of an early piece of mine for string quartet. Even though there were glaring shortcomings in the music, he cared enough about the fragile confidence of a fledgling composer to give words of encouragement that would inspire me to go on. As he would so often in the future, Lukas had told me to “keep writing.” In parting, he said with a smile, “Remember what I told you? I was right.”


Christian Carey is a composer, performer, and music theorist. He’s a contributing editor at Sequenza21, and has written articles for Tempo, Signal to Noise, and Musicworks.