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50 Years of Dave Brubeck - Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival by Dave Brubeck

This is a story of two jazz institutions and their 50 years of association. Dave Brubeck, approaching his 88th birthday, still performs and composes. (He enters the California Hall of Fame in December. Why so slow, California?) The Monterey Jazz Festival presented its 51st annual edition this fall.

It's rare for cutting-edge music to become commercially successful but that was the case with the classic Brubeck quartet (Brubeck, Desmond , Wright and Morello). Their music, with its emphasis on unusual time signatures, polytonality, polyrhythms and counterpoint, is represented by the three opening tracks. The challenging Brubeck original, " Two Part Contention," recorded at the very first festival contains enough counterpoint to make Bach smile. Quotes are usually casual throwaways but in the polyrhythmic "Someday My Prince Will Come" they are an integral part of Brubeck's performance. Paul Desmond is much more probing live than in the studio on "Prince" and he quickly goes outside on his updated "Take Five" which also contains an eloquent solo by Brubeck.

In December 1967 Brubeck disbanded the quartet to allow him more time for composition. The result was separate recognition as a composer of orchestral works,liturgical music, oratorios, cantatas, ballets and chamber music. A pair of tracks from the 1971 festival present a second quartet (Brubeck, Mulligan, Six and Dawson). Gerry Mulligan provides a soulful take on "Sermon on the Mount" from Brubeck's first oratorio, "Light in the Wilderness," and Six and Dawson are up to the rhythmic challenges of Mulligan's " Jumping Bean." The great bari player died in 1996 and is remembered with grace by Brubeck and bassist Stan Poplin, in their performance of "Goodbye Old Friend" at Monterey in 1998.

In 1985, Dave introduces his blues "Tritonis," as being played in five with a lot of other things going on. Things certainly do happen and Bobby Militello is wild and wonderful on flute. The closing tracks should be listened to by anyone who thinks Brubeck doesn't swing. Militello, who came to Brubeck by way of Maynard's band, plays inspired and intense alto on all three. "Rhythm" benefits from Christian McBride's presence on bass and Brubeck's sympathetic comping. He also inserts a quote or two into that much quoted tune. You won't drift off during the 2006 group's high-energy approach to Fred Waring's "Sleep." "Margie," taped at the 2007 Festival, is finger-snapping swing. Militello is surprisingly laid back as he starts his improvisation but not for long. There's a nice bowed solo by Michael Moore, and plenty of funky chording by Brubeck.

Over the years, Brubeck's groups have encountered significant changes. Desmond on alto, Mulligan on bari, Smith on clarinet, Militello on alto and flute. However the complex rhythmic and harmonic foundation laid down by Dave and a succession of sympatico bassists and drummers have insured the integrity of the Brubeck sound.

This release is an excellent representation of Dave Brubeck's contributions to 50 years of Monterey. My wish: a sequel with emphasis on his longer works.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dave Brubeck
  • CD Title: 50 Years of Dave Brubeck - Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: MJF Records
  • Tracks: Two Part Contention (1958), Someday My Prince Will Come (1962), Take Five (1966), Sermon On The Mount (1971), Jumping Bean (1971), Tritonis (1985), Goodbye Old Friend (1998), I Got Rhythm (2002), Sleep (2006), Margie (2007).
  • Musicians: Dave Brubeck (piano), Bobby Militello (flute, alto sax), Bill Smith (clarinet), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Christian McBride, Michael Moore, Eugene Wright, Stan Poplin, Chris Brubeck, Jack Six (bass), Joe Morello, Alan Dawson, Randy Jones (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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