Dave Brubeck: The Very Best of the Fantasy Era – 1949-1953

Sample of Brubeck’s pre-Columbia work on Fantasy

When fans think of Dave Brubeck’s golden era, they usually focus on the quartet of Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Wright that solidified in 1958 and began a string of memorable albums with 1959’s Time Out on Columbia. Brubeck’s earlier work on Fantasy had set the table with a trio that included Cal Tjader (heard here on drums and bongos, but not vibes), and later with a quartet that introduced Paul Desmond on alto sax. The pre-Desmond pieces are pleasant, though mostly uneventful, sounding a bit like the jazz-inflected easy-listening prevalent in the 1950s. Even here though, the contrast between Desmond’s alto sax and Brubeck’s heavy hands was immediately compelling. The time changes that would become the later quartet’s calling card can be heard in early form on “Frenesi” and other tracks, but not yet with the free swinging joie de vivre later brought to “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo Ala Turk.” Brubeck’s use of classical motifs is also in evidence early on. Concord’s reissued Brubeck’s Fantasy material in a number of forms, including original albums such as Jazz at Oberlin, and compilations that include The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy and Concord and Telarc. This single disc collection is a good introduction to Brubeck’s pre-Columbia sides, but not the place to start your appreciation of his catalog. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

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