Dave Brubeck: The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz and Telarc

Highlights from Brubeck’s pre- and post-Columbia years

By collecting early ‘50s sides waxed for Fantasy and post-70s sides laid down for Concord and Telarc, this two-disc set tells the story of pianist Dave Brubeck before and after his more famous time at Columbia. The selections taste his earliest work with an octet, trio work with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, and his initial liaisons with saxophonist Paul Desmond. It skips the seminal quartet formed with Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright, and rejoins Brubeck in the early 80s in a group with his son Chris on electric bass and bass trombone. Though the original versions of Brubeck hits “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo Ala Turk,” aren’t here, the distinctive elements – Brubeck’s blocky chords (magnificently played with competing hands on “Look for the Silver Lining” and chasing one another up and down the keyboard on “This Can’t Be Love”), Desmond’s brilliant tone, and the exploration of percussive arrangements and unusual time signatures – are all heard early on.

The later sessions find Brubeck rejoined by clarinetist (and original octet member) Bill Smith, and later by alto sax player Bobby Miltello. It’s hard to call this set “definitive,” given that many of the full source albums are in print, but it’s a good introduction for those who know Brubeck’s iconic Columbia releases and have never delved into his earlier catalog. His response to Tjader’s vibes is particularly interesting, as they’re both playing percussive melody instruments – something absent from the more famous quartet. This set also provides an opportunity to hear the directions Brubeck took as an elder statesman with a literal next generation of players. A selection of live tracks show how Brubeck, Desmond and the other players lit up in front of an audience (this is even more evident on  the 50th anniversary reissue of Time Out). The twenty-page booklet includes discographical data, photos, cover and label reproductions, and extensive liner notes by Brubeck’s longtime manager/producer/conductor (and this set’s curator), Russell Gloyd. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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