Saturday, December 11, 2004

Dave Brubeck Quartet

25th Anniversary Reunion
A&M Records, 1976

So, you may ask who is Dave Brubeck and why is he in my record collection? I suppose the answer has to go with being a drummer. Y'see, after awhile, you get kind of tired playing the straight 4 beats and you yearn for some challenges. My teacher at the time sensed my restlessness and played "Take Five" for me --- hearing its cymbal beat - da-da-dada da-dada, I was hooked. It took me hours and hours of practice just to get my hands around the concept of 5/4.

*soapbox mode on* As an aside, I remember years later learning how to program and having the same frustrations trying to understand such concepts as structures and pointers -- I recalled my drum training, and 5/4 jazz, burrowed my head down in my programming and had a very similar breakthrough. Parents, never let them take the music instruction and arts program away from the schools - it really does matter later in life even if your kid isn't talented enough to become an artist or musician. *off soapbox*

I zoomed through Brubeck's collection, aping Morello, my new hero, at every turn - I taped most of his songs from the local library and having similar euphonious merriment in oddly-metered time. Some other favorites - "Blue Rondo Ala Turk" was in 9/8 but alternated its grouping from 1-2-3-4 1-2-3 to 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2-3. "Three to Get Ready and Four to Go" featured here was a waltz that switched into a jazz 4/4. Oh there were plenty more but those three were my on little cassette enxt to my set for the next year or so.

"Take Five" was released in 1959 and propelled Brubeck to national recognition. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and got a whole lot of attention to the cool jazz movement. Everyone was becoming a hipster and this was on all the cool stereoes. Alot of jazzers disdained what he was doing - either they hated modern jazz or they were modern jazzers who thought Brubeck too commercial and were jealous that he had made such a success with off-beat songs. Ironic, that the song "Take Five" was actually written by Paul Desmond his sax player, though, huh? I wondered if this engendered any bad feelings -- from all accounts Desmond was good-natured about it. And I guess it WAS the Dave Brubeck Quartet and his piano playing on that cut after all.

In 1976, his quartet got back together for a series of shows across the US - this album captured pieces from two of those shows in the Midwest - I bought it as soon as it was released in 1977 hoping to find some new secrets. Joe Morello, Brubeck's drummer, was at this point legally blind but his drumming was tighter and much more intricate than in the 50s. Eugene Wright, his African American bassist (an anomaly for 1959) and Paul Desmond had mellowed somewhat but they bring a relaxed seasoned style and tons of humor (so does Morello for that matter).

You can hear that playful nature in "Three to Get Ready" (below) and in a faster "Take Five" (too large for me to play for you here). Wright's 3-movement "African Times Suite" while nice to include drags things down a bit as does Brubeck's ponderous "Salute to Stephen Foster". I would have instead enjoyed a new version of "Blue Rondo" or "It's a Raggy Waltz". The version of "St. Louis Blues" is fine as is the mellow "Don't Worry About Me," the latter will make you wonder no more why Miles Davis liked Brubeck.

Recorded on the best vinyl around at the time (the A&M Horizon imprint was in competition with Angel, then the highest quality vinyl label, at the time, if I remember correctly), it shows -- very little surface noise here even lo these many years and many plays.


"Three to Get Ready and Four to Go" - From
25th Anniversary Reunion (buy it)

Found via
"Take Five" - from
Time Out, 1959
"Blue Rondo a la Turk" - from
Time Out, 1959

Buy the classic Time Out if only for the cover art:

Courtesy the Tralfaz Cover Art Gallery - Take Five page


1 comment:

Eric said...

Always loved "Take 5", it's nice to hear some other stuff that is just as choice.