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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Dave BRUBECK (b.1920)
Songs: All my love (1,3) [5:25]; Strange meadowlark (1,3) [4:45]; The things you never remember (1,3) [5:59]; So lonely (1,3) [5:28]; Don’t forget me (1,3) [4:26]; There’ll be no tomorrow (1,3) [4:50]; The time of our madness (1,3) [2:09]; Tao (1) [2:50]; Final curve/Search (1,4) [3:15]; Dream dust/Hold fast to dreams (1,4) [2:57]; Hold fast to dreams (2,4) [5:23]; The dream keeper (1,2,4) [5:06]; Day after day (1,4) [4:47]; Once when I was very young (1,4) [3:42]
John De Haan: tenor (1); Jane Giering De Haan: soprano (2); Dave Brubeck: piano (3); Cliff Jackson: piano (4)
rec. Gusman Concert Hall, University of Miami, Frost School of Music, 9-11 Jan 2004
NAXOS 8.559220 [61:02]

 

One does have to hand it to Naxos – for all sorts of reasons. In this case the object of affection is Naxos’s American Classics Series, where, for minimal outlay people can get musically acquainted with composers otherwise largely ignored by the rest. There we find Ned Rorem, Amy Beach, Chadwick, Strong, Piston, William Schuman, Diamond, to name but a few, as well as Barber, Copland and Ives, thus fulfilling Naxos’s mission to educate as well as entertain.

But how do you define "classics"? When the composer is Dave Brubeck I expect his jazz to figure; "Take Five" and "Unsquare Dance" are both classics in the accepted sense. However, when he wears his other hat of classical composer we get a completely different picture. It is, of course, well documented that Brubeck was a student of Milhaud, who was one of the first composers to incorporate the jazz idiom into his often extremely witty compositions (e.g: "La Création Du Monde"). But with this selection of fourteen of his songs setting words by himself, his wife Iola, son Michael as well as those by Langston Hughes and, in one case, an ancient Tao Buddhist text, we have works in a more popular than classical mood. They are likeable enough but I can’t help thinking that they may have been better served by different singers. The two singers on this disc, John De Haan and Jane Giering De Haan, are principally opera singers. Voices such as these are too operatic to make a sufficiently convincing job of the more popular idiom. Perhaps it is a question of control; opera singers find it more difficult to achieve a more laid-back, unbuttoned sound. John De Haan, in particular, struggles to present an easy-going style and in two cases to manage the highest notes (e.g: the last notes of "All my love" and "The time of our madness"). I’d love to hear these songs sung by Shirley Horn or Dawn Upshaw or Jamie Cullum. I’m sure they would reveal more of the underlying intention than these two do, despite receiving the total backing of the composer who is accompanist for seven of the songs.

Not an unqualified recommendation then, but, as I said at the outset, the outlay is so small that for those who want to hear what Dave Brubeck can do other than pure jazz, this disc will not cost them dear.

Steve Arloff

see also review by Göran Forsling



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