[JPL] Dave Brubeck is Back

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Sun Nov 28 20:41:35 EST 2010

November 28, 2010

  Brubeck's Back, Conserving Resources

            By NATE CHINEN

Dave Brubeck 
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
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