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Dave BRUBECK (1920-2012)
Brubeck & American Poets
Four New England Pieces: Autumn in Our Town [2:09]; Once When I Was Very Young [5:09]; Two Churches [2:50]; How Does Your Garden Grow? [4:02]
Lonesome [2:29]
Summer Song [4:20]
Regret [5:10]
Quiet As the Moon [3:48]
Dreamer [2:08]
Heaven/Boogie 1AM [2:56]
Dusk [3:11]
I Dream a World: Chorale [2:10]
Festival Hall [1:42]
I Have a Little Shadow [3:37]
The Wheel [3:31]
In Time of Silver Rain [2:33]
The Peace of Wild Things [3:34]
The Wind [2:55]
Truth [2:43]
Pacific Mozart Ensemble/Lynne Morrow
rec. December 2011, Skywalker Sound, Marin County, CA
Texts included
SONO LUMINUS DSL-92160 [61:10 + Blu-Ray Audio Disc]

Dave Brubeck, like his English piano contemporary and fellow Jazz pioneer, George Shearing, wrote a significant amount of music for choir. Much of it has been recorded over the years but in this disc there is a world premiere (The Peace of Wild Things) and a choral premiere in the shape of Lonesome.
 
The disc title is somewhat off-kilter. If you are expecting settings of Sylvia Plath or E.E Cummings, or perhaps T.S. Eliot, you will be in for a disappointment. Many of the texts are by Brubeck himself, or Iola Brubeck, his wife. There are a couple of poems by Wendell Berry and one by Robert Penn Warren. The others are by Langston Hughes, once rudely lampooned as Plankton Chews, only remembered for his role in the Harlem Renaissance, whose totemic position is in inverse ratio to his poetic talent. There are two poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, who was not American the last time I checked. In any case I hardly think this much amounts to ‘American Poets’ in any real sense.
 
Of the music I’m afraid to say it largely left me indifferent. Brubeck draws on some of the tools of his trade; little Gospel cadences in Two Churches, the third and the liveliest of his four New England Pieces. For Lonesome the ethos is plangent, for Summer Song, sweetly innocent. Elements of vocalise are to be found in Regret and there’s some Boogie infiltrated (naturally) into Heaven/Boogie 1am where the lyrics are based on Langston Hughes. Dusk possesses honest melancholy, but I Dream of a World is an ambitious Lutheran-type four part chorale. If the choir had sung it with more clarity, it would have made a greater impact. Festival Hall is partially derivative of something like Ray Bryant’s Cubano Chant for its ebullient effect; much better is the Square Dance, a genuinely engaging setting.
 
The debut recording of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble is adequate.
 
Brubeck’s word setting is certainly competent but I have to say that I expected far more of a student of Darius Milhaud: far more iconoclasm and far more individuality.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 




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