The American Brass Quintet made its debut in 1960, when brass chamber music was relatively unknown to concert audiences. This necessitated building a repertoire almost from scratch -- in stark contrast to the modern-day string quartet, which has some 300 years of literature to choose from. The ABQ has since given over 100 premieres of new works for brass while amassing a discography of over 40 recordings. This is the largest body of serious brass music ever recorded by a single ensemble.
While many brass quintets have prospered by performing arrangements of popular, jazz, and rock styles in pops concert settings, the ABQ is known for its serious, thoughtful approach to the genre. The ensemble's core literature consists of contemporary works, their own editions of Renaissance and Baroque music, and rediscoveries of forgotten nineteenth century brass repertoire. The many composers who have been commissioned by the ABQ over the years include Jan Bach, William Bolcom, Elliott Carter, Jacob Druckman, Eric Ewazen, William Schuman, Ralph Shapey, Gunther Schuller, Virgil Thomson, and Melinda Wagner.
Having toured throughout Europe, Asia, South and Central America, the Middle East, Australia, and the United States, the ABQ has been hailed as "the high priests of brass" by Newsweek, "positively breathtaking," by the New York Times, and "of all the brass quintets, this country's most distinguished" by the American Record Guide. The quintet has never wavered in its dedication to serious brass music, as evidenced by its ongoing residencies at the Juilliard School (since 1987) and the Aspen Music Festival (since 1970).