October-10th-2012, 06:55 PM
Billy Brimfield RIP
Chicago trumpeter Bill Brimfield, early avant-garde star, dies at 74jazzOctober 10, 2012
By: Neil TesserSubscribe
.The late trumpeter Bill Brimfield, performing at the old Velvet Lounge on S. Indiana Ave.
Chicago trumpeter Bill Brimfield – who in 1966 appeared on one of the earliest albums to present the music of the acclaimed AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) – died Tuesday at his apartment in Jonquil Terrace, on the city’s far north side. He was 74 years old and had been in failing health in recent years, although he had largely recovered from a stroke in 2000 or 2001.
According to James Bottoms, Jr., a pianist and vocalist who looked after Brimfield for the last several years, “I was supposed to take him shopping Tuesday, but when I called to get in touch with him, he didn’t answer, several times. I notified the front desk of his building, and they checked and found him unresponsive.”
Because had his hand over his chest, Bottoms conjectures that the trumpeter may have suffered a heart attack, but no official cause of death has been announced.
Brimfield was best known for his work in the groups of the late tenor saxist Fred Anderson in the 1970s and 80s, helping Anderson establish his reputation as a unique and intrepid improviser and bandleader; in 1979 he appeared in the saxophonist’s group at the inaugural Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant Park. He continued to play with Anderson on an occasional basis into the 90s, appearing on a 1998 album recorded live at Anderson’s club the Velvet Lounge.
The slightly built Brimfield’s fiery tone, shaped by the hard-bop era in which he grew up, brought an extra crackle to his bristling improvisations, which served as an effective foil for Anderson’s often brooding, mythic solos.
Brimfield began his association with Anderson, his fellow Evanstonian, in the 1957, when the trumpeter was still in high school. He continued to spur Anderson’s quartets, quintets, and even sextets well into the 1980s. He also recorded on albums led by drummer Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago; with bluesman Fenton Robinson; with saxist Ed Petersen ("The Haint," 1994); and in his last recording, with pianist-composer Bradley Parker-Sparrow, on the concept album "We Are Not Machines" in 2002.
In A Power Stronger Than Itself, his monumental history of the AACM, George Lewis discusses a short unpublished biography of Brimfield in which the trumpeter stated, “I had seen [the film] Young Man With A Horn with Kirk Douglas four times and I knew I had to be a trumpet player.” In Evanston, he and Anderson, who was then in his late 20s, utilized the practice rooms in the School of Music at Northwestern University for informal lessons. As Anderson recalled, “I was learning all the tunes, and I taught Brimfield his first Charlie Parker tune. He was then in the high school band, and he was hooked on Louis Armstrong.”
Brimfield got past his flirtation with early jazz soon enough, and in the summer of 1965, he and Anderson performed in the first official AACM concert, at 79th St. and Stony Island, as part of a quintet led by reedist Joseph Jarman. The following year, Brimfield and Anderson recorded the pieces that became "Song For" (Delmark), Jarman’s first album – and only the second to reveal the new music of the AACM.
At the height of his powers, Brimfield suffered from alcoholism and related behavioral issues. Despite various misfortunes brought on by his peccadilloes – at least twice he had his trumpet stolen when he fell asleep while riding the el back from a gig – he remained a plucky survivor of the jazz life. His cackling laugh and mischievous sense of humor, along with his prodigious musicianship, made him a much admired and fondly remembered contributor to the fertile Chicago jazz scene of the 70s and 80s.
Even after his stroke, Brimfield managed to maintain a sure if low profile in music, playing in the occasional jam session and working with his friend James Butler in a couple of local groups. “We played in bands together for about three years; he really took me under his wing,” Butler told me Wednesday, as he began to make arrangements for an eventual memorial service. “I started as a vocalist, but he really mentored me, and got me playing piano.” (Butler eventually launched his own trio, playing regularly at the Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant, where Brimfield would occasionally sit in.)
Brimfield, who had no family, left instructions that he be cremated. Butler hopes to announce details soon for a memorial service, which will probably take place in early November.
October-11th-2012, 11:40 AM
Oh that's really sad news. I remember him not only from AACM and the 63rd Street BeachHouse, but also my college days when he and sometimes a friend would hide out in The Beehive (a small brick practice building on Sherman Avenue) and practice. Lots of times when the place became crowded, they'd get kicked out, because though everyone liked him, he wasn't an NU student.
"Life's short, drink well."
October-11th-2012, 05:34 PM
R.I.P. Hadn't seen Billy in quite a few years. Memories of some great Velvet sets over the years.