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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 QUARTET

Original Album Classics

Sony 88697660492

 

 


CD1: Time Out
1. Blue Rondo à la Turk
2. Strange Meadow Lark
3. Take Five
4. Three to Get Ready
5. Kathy's Waltz
6. Everybody's Jumpin'
7. Pick Up Sticks

CD2: Countdown - Time in Outer Space
1. Countdown
2. Eleven Four
3. Why Phillis
4. Someday My Prince Will Come
5. Castilian Blues
6. Castilian Drums
7. Fast Life
8. Waltz Limp
9. Three's a Crowd
10. Danse Duet
11. Back to Earth
12. Fatha

CD3: Time Further Out
1. It's a Raggy Waltz
2. Bluette
3. Charles Matthew Hallelujah
4. Far More Blue
5. Far More Drums
6. Maori Blues
7. Unsquare Dance
8. Bru's Boogie Woogie
9. Blue Shadows in the Street
10. Slow and Easy (aka Lawless Mike)
11. It's a Raggy Waltz (Live)

CD4: Time Changes
1. Iberia
2. Unisphere
3. Shim Wha
4. World's Fair
5. Cable Car
6. Theme from Elementals
7. Elementals

CD5: Time In
1. Lost Waltz
2. Softly, William, Softly
3. Time In
4. Forty Days
5. Travellin' Blues
6. He Done Her Wrong
7. Loneseome
8. Cassandra
9. Rude Old Man
10. Who Said That?
11. Watusi Drums

Dave Brubeck - Piano
Paul Desmond - Alto sax
Eugene Wright - Bass
Joe Morello - Drums

 

This is the second album with the same title as one I reviewed recently. All rather confusing, really. At least this five-CD boxed set has the unifying theme of comprising albums in which the Brubeck Quartet experimented with various time signatures. Of course, the most famous of the experiments was Take Five, which got the quartet into the British pop charts in 1961.

On a Jazz 625 BBC broadcast featuring the Brubeck group, presenter Steve Race expressed surprise that Take Five, with its unusual five-four rhythm, had actually got into the charts. Yet the tune surely owed its popularity not to its beat but to its catchy melody (written by altoist Paul Desmond).

When the Time Out LP appeared in 1959, it certainly caused a stir, as Dave Brubeck had possibly found a new road to explore - getting away from the four-four rhythm which still dominated most jazz. The LP's success led him to follow it with the four other albums which are reissued in this package.

However, as one listens through each successive album, it becomes clear that Brubeck's explorations were a byway, not a main road. Blue Rondo à la Turk may have surprised us with its peculiar beat (was it 9/8?) but the solos went into 4/4. and most of the other tunes on Time Out were simply in variants of waltz time. However daring later time signatures might be (e.g. Eleven Four in Countdown), they came to seem incidental rather than essential.

This is not to underestimate Brubeck's initiative: it just puts it in perspective. The same thing happened later when Don Ellis experimented with even more complex time signatures: it was interesting but had little lasting influence.

So it may be best just to listen to these albums without trying to play the game of "count the beats" or "guess the time signature" - and Time Out works well from this point of view. Strange Meadow Lark starts as an attractive out-of-time piano solo. Take Five includes some superb drumming from Joe Morello. Three to Get Ready seesaws intriguingly between 3/4 and 4/4. Brubeck's playful piano is pleasing on such tracks as Kathy's Waltz, and Paul Desmond's dulcet alto sax is always a delight to savour.

The following albums all have their high spots but the tempo game gradually detracts from the appeal rather than providing a stimulus. In fact it gets in the way of Brubeck's melodic talent and the group's ability to swing. For instance, most of the originals on Countdown - Time in Outer Space lack memorable tunes. The outstanding exception is Frank Churchill's Someday My Prince Will Come (from the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), which is delivered with a gorgeously romantic lilt, although at one point Dave's piano sounds as if it is stuck in a groove.

Time Further Out is described by Brubeck as a blues suite that is "a jazz interpretation of the Joan Mir¢ painting - 1925" which is reproduced on the front cover. Once again, the reason why Dave wrote the music is less important than the music itself. One could search for ever looking for the meaning(s) in Mir¢'s painting and the same applies to Brubeck's music. For instance, he explains Maori Blues as being inspired by a 6/4 rhythm he heard being used by Maoris but much of the tune seems to be in 4/4 and Dave almost drives the piano into the ground with unsubtle thumping. The album is saved by two compositions with catchy themes - It's a Raggy Waltz and Unsquare Dance - which marked the Brubeck Quartet's second and third entries into the British pop charts. A live recording of It's a Raggy Waltz rounds off the CD.

Much of what I have already said could be applied to the fourth and fifth CDs, although Time Changes is unusual in including a 16-minute piece called Elementals which Brubeck wrote for an Arrangers' Workshop in Rochester, New York. The piece is in waltz time and the quartet is joined by a full orchestra, giving it the character of a classical concerto. Yet, as so often in such attempts to marry jazz with "serious' music, the jazzmen take second place to the orchestra. Besides, some of the orchestration is as thuddingly heavy as Dave's piano playing at its most assertive.

Time In includes some numbers which mix up tempos but there are also quite a lot that don't. He Done Her Wrong is Frankie and Johnny played in unusual rhythm. Cassandra has a strong melody but most of it is in common time. There are three bonus tracks added to the original album: Rude Old Man is a feature for bassist Eugene Wright, who is a tower of strength throughout this whole compilation. And the last two tracks are simply blues played as a piano trio without Paul Desmond.

It is useful to have these five "Time' albums together in one box but, as with the previous boxed set with the same title, reducing the original LP sleeves to CD size renders them virtually unreadable. And there is no album booklet to fill out the information.

Tony Augarde



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