Big Brookmeyer celebration
WA Youth Jazz Orchestra artistic director Mace Francis had a big band revelation the first time he heard American composer Bob Brookmeyer’s composition, Remembering.
“My housemate at the time played it for me and it totally changed my musical life,” Francis said.
“Before hearing that piece of music I thought big band, like many people do, was old music, but Brookmeyer’s music was a blend between beautiful melodies with orchestral sounds and then also had that guts of a big band sound.”
As fate would have it, Francis had the opportunity to meet one of Brookmeyer’s band members in Perth in 2004 and, before he knew it, was on a plane to Europe to tour with his idol for a few weeks.
“I was so excited and like a kid in a candy store,” Francis said.
“I didn’t play with him, I was like his roadie, so I would carry his trombone and make sure his music was all ready for the rehearsals or concerts.
“It was great because he was able to listen to my music and give me incredible feedback.
“The few times I sat down with him, I learnt more in those few hours than I have through university degrees and life experience.”
Brookmeyer died in 2011, but Francis is continuing his legacy by paying tribute with WAYJO Composers’ Ensemble’s first performance of the year, Bob Brookmeyer: A Modern Master, at Astor Lounge.
“It’s a beautiful intimate setting and we’re taking a span of Brookmeyer’s entire career,” Francis said.
“So we’ve got one piece from the mid-’50s, which is a classic swinging big band piece, then some beautiful ballads with lush orchestrations through to slightly odd, avant-garde music and also his unique interpretations of classic jazz standards off the last album he recorded just before he died.
“Because he was at the cutting edge of big band composing from the ’50s, he sort of drove the lineage of it, so the night will be a journey through time through the eyes and ears of Bob Brookmeyer.”
Mace Francis flanked by saxophonists Alana Macpherson and Max Koenig.