Last night I has a dream about my Uncle John, a jazz pianist, songwriter, arranger, and composer. He was married to my Aunt Peggy, my mother’s sister. He died in 1999.

In the dream I was a student at some music school. I was in conversation with the director of the school at a party when I said that John Benson Brooks was my uncle. The director became very excited; he was a real admirer of John but had never been able to tell anyone.

I felt the intensity of this fellow’s admiration, and in the dream decided to focus all my aspiring professional attention on John’s music.

This is really interesting to me because I have never been strongly attracted to his music. John wrote most of his stuff in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and is best known for his compositional range. There are pop songs, among them “Just as Though You Were Here,” a hit for Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra as vocalist, and “Where Flamingos Fly” which is on a recording by, amazingly enough, by The King’s Singers – and a range of jazz. He worked with Zoot Sims and All Cohn on a recording “Folk Jazz U.S.A.” and created a 12-tone composition called “The Twelves,” which is based on improvisations on twelve-tone rows. This became part of a LP called “Avant Slant.” To those who truly know 20th century jazz, this is an amazing range of compositional styles.

And yet, we never connected musically. His musical language was foreign to me.

This makes my dream especially interesting. Uncle John does not himself appear in it, but a stranger, who really admired him, does. And this interaction with a dream stranger prods me to inquire again into his music.

 

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