Jazz CD Reviews

Dave Brubeck – Legacy Of A Legend – Columbia/Legacy Records (2 CDs)

This is a phenomenal retrospective of a jazz legend.

Published on December 25, 2010

Dave Brubeck – Legacy Of A Legend – Columbia/Legacy Records (2 CDs)

Dave Brubeck – Legacy Of A Legend – Columbia/Legacy Records (2 CDs) 88677 80563 2, 110:19 *****:

(Featuring the Dave Brubeck Quartet {Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello}, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing, Gerry Mulligan, Carmen McRae and many others)

Dave Brubeck, in many ways defies logical description. The bespectacled pianist certainly looks as if he could be a classical musician. And yet, he would eventually redefine the jazz idiom with creative atypical time signatures, and wildly experimental rhythms and structures. His defining work in the 1950s brought jazz to mainstream acceptance, with the likes of Duke Ellington. A California native, he was one of the first artists recorded by Fantasy Records in Berkeley (along with Vince Guaraldi and Lenny Bruce), and formed his first trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotto. Wildly inventive, the ensemble lacked a cohesive presence. All this would change in 1951 when saxophonist Paul Desmond joined the group.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet became a staple of Bay Area jazz culture. Their debut album for Columbia Records dazzled fans and put Brubeck on the cover of Time Magazine in 1954. In 1958 the quartet achieved its classic lineup when Eugene Wright joined with Brubeck, Desmond and Joe Morello. Time Out, released in 1959 astounded the music world. With an assortment of unusual compositions and arrangements, The Dave Brubeck Quartet became iconic, recording an incredible catalogue of great music. Included in this run was the 1963 performance, At Carnegie Hall, a historic live album.

Brubeck’s career would never diminish. He would record with symphonies, popular singers, and continue to amaze with his diversity. He had a highly developed sense of political reverence, and remained committed to many social causes, none more acute than the Civil Rights movement. His trio with Gerry Mulligan delighted critics and fans. He formed a group with his sons and toured the world. He was a true cultural ambassador, and has been recognized for his humanitarian efforts. In recent years he has been composing classical liturgical works. Performing into his nineties, a lifetime of accolades culminated in his 2009 Kennedy Center Honors.

Dave Brubeck, Legacy Of A Legend is a veritable treasure of his brilliant career. Aficionados of the quartet ensembles will be ecstatic over the plethora of material. Selected by Brubeck himself, the artistry is on display. The nimble swing of “Jeepers Creepers” showcases the early connection of Brubeck and Desmond. The unusual timing of the piano acts as a perfect foil to the smooth saxophone. Continuing with tempo signatures is “Unsquare Dance”, in 7/4 time stylized by the hand clap and drum percussion, leading to a furious piano coda. As a pioneer of this untested style, it was impressive that Time Out has become the most popular jazz album of all time. Two pieces serve as testaments to musical transcendence. “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, in frenetic 9/4 tempo, combines the intense elements of classical and jazz dialectic.  Brubeck and Desmond trade attacking leads with slower rhythm breaks. The quartet is brilliant, as the deft bass (Wright) and drums (Morello) back the Desmond solo flawlessly. Brubeck turns in his customary notation and chord play magic. “Take Five” could be the one of the greatest pieces of music ever produced. Morello’s cymbal-based drum line sets up the hypnotic play by Desmond. The ostensibly simple piano chords in 5/4 have a stunning impact on the song.

Brubeck’s intrinsic sensibility for interpretation is mesmerizing on the Westside Story classic, “Somewhere”. A delicate introduction, in counter melody lines with Desmond, embraces the lyrical emotion, before a transition into cool jazz takes control of the song. His collaboration with Gerry Mulligan is represented in a sizzling live version of “St. Louis Blues”. Here the piano legend demonstrates his improvisational expertise as he and Mulligan instigate a searing jam session. The pair is also featured on a surprisingly upbeat rendition of “Out Of Nowhere”. Brubeck’s furious crescendos electrify the crowd.  A previously unreleased, live recording of “Three To Get Ready” in 1967 finds the original quartet in its twilight, but still vital. There are some cooperative efforts with singers (Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae and Jimmy Rushing) that highlight the affection and respect of his peers.

The liner notes by his son, Darius Brubeck, are informative and give some insight into the man behind the music. A humorous anecdote concerning the Time article and his friend, Duke Ellington, will reinforce the Brubeck mystique. For anyone striving to experience essential jazz, Dave Brubeck Legacy Of A Legend is a must.

TrackList CD 1: Jeepers Creepers; Taking A Chance On Love; The Duke; Someday My Prince Will Come; Ode To A Cowboy; Thank You (Dziekuje); Camptown Races; Gone With The Wind; Blue Rondo a la Turk; Take Five; Evenin’

TrackList CD 2: My One Bad Habit; Somewhere; Unsquare Dance; Summer Song; Something To Sing About; You Go To My Head; Mr. Broadway; Three To Get Ready; Out Of Nowhere; St. Louis Blues

 –Robbie Gerson




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