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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET

Jazz at Oberlin

FANTASY RECORDS ORIGINAL JAZZ CLASSICS REMASTERS 0888072319912

 

 

  1. These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
  2. Perdido
  3. Stardust
  4. The Way You Look Tonight
  5. How High The Moon
Dave Brubeck (piano)
Paul Desmond (alto saxophone)
Ron Crotty (bass)
Lloyd Davis (drums)
rec. March 1953, Finney Chapel, Oberlin College

 

Jazz at Oberlin is one of those classic Brubeck albums that has not diminished in import or enjoyment. Even when he is at his knottiest - perhaps especially then - spinning out Bart¢kian roulades, there is freshness and vigour to his playing that never palls. In These Foolish Things for example, where these impulses are palpable, his dynamics are varied with such assurance that one tends to listen into the playing rather than become a static auditor. The brittle, off beat rhetoric he employs is stylistically restless and whilst one might think that all this has only a tenuous connection with the tune itself, the results demarcate a reading of often startling brilliance, not least in his advanced use of dissonance. Perdido witnesses some naughty interpolated quotations from the agile, sinuous Paul Desmond whose solo receives tumultuous applause. In his own solo Brubeck ventures from Garner to the Duke to neo-classicism, to contrapuntalism. His solo in Stardust meanwhile rises to a peak of chordal romanticism before deftly lowering the dynamics, rising again and creating a performance of all-embracing adrenalin-rich panache. It's a pity the piano he used was not really up to standard, but that's the jazz musician's burden down the years.

If there's one arrangement that fails to convince me it's that for The Way You Look Tonight. There's something just a bit forced about the over-artful contrapuntal lines, and about the insistence of the off-beat statements. In compensation Desmond's tone is rougher than usual - maybe the Oberlin youngsters were encouraging him - sometimes indeed almost disconcertingly so, although always excitingly. Finally there is the Bop anthem, How High The Moon. The languid intro leads on to Desmond picking up the tempo, propelled by the fine bass of Ron Crotty and drummer Lloyd Davis. Brubeck plays Bud Powell-derived phrases, and then goes in for heavily choppy lines, adding variety of metre to his arsenal.

At just shy of 40 minutes this was a short recital. Its interplay and combustible qualities however raise it far above such limited considerations.

Jonathan Woolf



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