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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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DAVE BRUBECK

Original Album Classics

Sony 88697784942

 

 


CD1: Brubeck Plays Brubeck
1. Swing Bells
2. Walkin' Line
3. In Your Own Sweet Way
4. Two-Part Contention
5. Weep No More
6. The Duke
7. When I Was Young
8. One Moment Worth Years
9. The Waltz

CD2: Brandenburg Gate Revisited
1. Brandenburg Gate
2. Summer Song
3. In Your Own Sweet Way
4. G Flat Theme
5. Kathy's Waltz

CD3: Gone With the Wind
1. Swanee River
2. The Lonesome Road
3. Georgia on My Mind
4. Camptown Races
5. Camptown Races
6. Short'nin' Bread
7. Basin Street Blues
8. Ol' Man River
9. Gone with the Wind

CD4: Jazz Goes to College
1. Balcony Rock
2. Out of Nowhere
3. Le Souk
4. Take the "A" Train
5. The Song Is You
6. Don't Worry 'bout Me
7. I Want to Be Happy

CD5: Jazz Impressions of New York
1. Theme from "Mr. Broadway"
2. Broadway Bossa Nova
3. Autumn in Washington Square
4. Something to Sing About
5. Sixth Sense
6. Spring in Central Park
7. Lonely Mr. Broadway
8. Summer on the Sound
9. Winter Ballad
10. Broadway Romance
11. Upstage Rumba

 

Possibly taking a lead from the "Original Album Series" on Warner's Rhino label (which have been reviewed on this website for such artists as Duke Ellington and Ray Charles), Sony has released a couple of packages of five CDs comprising LPs in their original sleeves but reduced to CD size in a cardboard box. The main problem with this is that the reduction in size makes the original sleeve-notes and recording details virtually unreadable. The lack of a proper album booklet leaves the buyer without adequate recording details. Another problem is that both packages have the same title, although the other one (probably to be reviewed later) concentrates on Dave Brubeck's experiments with time signatures.

The collection now under scrutiny gathers together five albums respectively from 1956, 1961, 1959, 1954 and 1964. Heaven knows why the LPs were packaged in this way, as chronological order might have been more educational.

At any rate, we start with Brubeck Plays Brubeck from 1956, in which the pianist plays entirely alone. The album is sub-titled "Original compositions for solo piano" and it serves as a reminder that Brubeck is not only a considerable pianist but also a valuable composer. At least two of the tunes on the album - In Your Own Sweet Way and The Duke - have become jazz standards. The performances also prove that Dave could be lyrical as well as assertive. Some of his quartet performances were occasionally marred by piano-bashing - so much so that another pianist once complained that, after Brubeck had played a piano, it needed retuning.

In Your Own Sweet Way exemplifies Dave's adventurous chordings, while Two-Part Contention reveals his classical leanings with something like a Bach fugue. But the latter surpasses some of the similar work by Jacques Loussier by having more definite jazz content.

The second album, Brandenburg Gate Revisited from 1961, was produced by Teo Macero, who backs Dave Brubeck's quartet with a soupy string orchestra. This makes some tracks resemble the movements of a classical concerto - or it would have done if the soloists had been given more solo space. The album got its title from Brandenburg Gate, a tune which Dave wrote in 1958 on a visit to Berlin and recorded for the album Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. There is another version of In Your Own Sweet Way here but it should have been called The Orchestra Gets in the Way. Dave's brother Howard Brubeck apparently did the arrangements and he says of this track: "The orchestral parts become more assertive toward the end". Throughout this album, the orchestra is a hindrance rather than a help and adds nothing significant to the quartet's work.

The third CD - Gone With the Wind (1959) - blessedly returns us to the Brubeck Quartet on its own. Dave starts Swanee River puckishly and Paul Desmond's alto is as radiant as ever, followed by a typically percussive piano solo and a shapely drum solo. This is the classic Brubeck line-up, with Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello at the drums. As with Benny Goodman's quartet, part of the enjoyment derives from the contrasts between the musicians. Just as the Goodman quartet set off the lively Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa against the refined Goodman and Wilson, so Paul Desmond's urbanity contrasts intriguingly with Brubeck's excitability. You might say that Desmond was legato while Brubeck could be very sforzando!

The recording quality of this CD (again produced by Teo Macero) is quite resonant, but that enhances the lyricism of Paul Desmond's solos and the impact of Joe Morello's drum outings. Georgia on my Mind and several other titles suggest that this album may have started life with a geographical theme. Desmond's solo on Georgia is sublime. Bass and drums supply an appropriate introduction to the sparkling Camptown Races which appears here in two versions. The sleeve-note says that the second take is included "because of more West Indian rhythm played by Joe Morello" - and it certainly has an impressive solo from Joe, virtually playing the tune on his drums.

Jazz Goes to College takes us back in time to the earlier 1950s, when Brubeck had discovered a previously untapped audience among college students and gained new popularity with his quartet. His rhythm section was less talented but Joe Dodge's explosive bass-drum bombs aroused the students (notably at the start of Take the "A" Train). The audience seems easy to please but Brubeck doesn't play down to them and he is unafraid to use counterpoint, unusual chords and having fun with time-signatures. Dave appears to be humming along happily with his own solo on Out of Nowhere, where he anticipates his own future experiments with tempo by playing daringly across the beat. The only reservation I would have is at Brubeck's tendency to repeat notes (especially triplets) over and over again until they get on your nerves.

The final CD - Jazz Impressions of New York from 1964 - looks as if it should contain programme music, somehow capturing the spirit of the Big Apple. But most of it comprises cheery or moody pieces which fail to conjure up any images and often seem inconsequential. Some tracks stop abruptly - perhaps because Brubeck wrote this music for a TV series called My Broadway. Whatever the reason, this is overall a mediocre and often lacklustre CD. Unaccountably, the recording quality is sometimes poor. The compilers of this boxed set would have done better to include another of the college sessions or one of the quartet's many other live recordings.

Tony Augarde



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