[JPL] Dave Brubeck is Back
drjazz at drjazz.com
Sun Nov 28 20:41:35 EST 2010
November 28, 2010
Brubeck's Back, Conserving Resources
By NATE CHINEN
made his way to the Blue Note stage with apparent effort on Friday, the
first night of a sold-out weekend run. "My doctors told me I'm rushing
things," he said, a little breathlessly, once he had reached the piano
bench. He didn't go on to explain that he had undergone heart surgery in
October, when he received a pacemaker, or that a handful of other
concert dates had been postponed. He was back and eager to proceed, and
that was what mattered, judging by the ensuing clatter of grateful
This was already shaping up to be a commemorative season for Mr.
Brubeck. He's the subject of a documentary, "In His Own Sweet Way,"
scheduled to run on Turner Classic Movies next Monday --- his 90th
birthday --- after its premiere on Saturday at Lincoln Center
(The film's executive producer is Clint Eastwood
honorary board chairman of the Brubeck Institute at the University of
the Pacific.) His stylish Columbia Records output has been repackaged
for two new boxed sets and a two-CD compilation. And "The Definitive
Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz, and Telarc" features both older
and more recent material, concluding with a track recorded by his
current working band.
Mr. Brubeck's steady work with that band, featuring the alto saxophonist
Bobby Militello, the bassist Michael Moore
and the drummer Randy Jones, has long proposed a commemorative agenda of
its own. Friday's performance was characteristic, opening with a Duke
medley and moving on to a blend of originals and standards that
effectively spanned Mr. Brubeck's career. "Take Five"
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwNrmYRiX_o> was the obligatory finale,
spiced up with Christmas-music quotations and a climactic drum solo.
The band was brisk, if a bit businesslike, throughout the set. Mr. Moore
bowed a handful of graceful solos and otherwise laid a stalwart but
supple foundation, syncing easily with Mr. Jones. On the front line Mr.
Militello barreled through his solos with boppish aplomb, phrasing just
slightly ahead of the beat. At times, as on "Someday My Prince Will
Come," the three sidemen ventured out with no piano, pushing into modal
Their best efforts, though, were framed by Mr. Brubeck's accompaniment.
Long before his recent medical leave, he had softened his pianism,
replacing the old hammer-and-anvil attack with something almost airy.
Here he often held his fingers splayed flat against the keys, barely
touching his sustain pedal. His playing was the picture of judicious
clarity, its well-placed chordal accents suggesting a riffing horn section.
And in one of the set's finer stretches he stirred up a gentle rustle,
as if to renounce percussivism altogether. It was the second movement of
"Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra"
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jSzLFi1OWI>, composed by his brother
Howard Brubeck and originally recorded with Leonard Bernstein
Mr. Brubeck stated the melody unaccompanied, fluid and florid, before
the ensemble shifted into medium swing for a solo by Mr. Militello. What
followed was a contrapuntal piano-bass interlude, then Mr. Brubeck alone
again. He smiled to himself as he brought the theme home, a captain
firmly steering into port.
Dave Brubeck performs on Friday at the Tarrytown Music Hall in
Tarrytown, N.Y.; tarrytownmusichall.org.
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
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