Brubeck fans rejoice! The kind folks at Columbia Legacy have finally gotten around to giving the class-reissue treatment to their extensive Brubeck discography (he was on Columbia 1953-70), making available albums long out of print, as well as sounds that have never seen the light of the record store. You got your 20-bit remastering, nice photos, extensive liner notes--everything a fan could--should--expect from a reissue, especially for what these slivers of aluminum cost these days.
Brubeck Plays Brubeck is the man home alone, with his trusty piano, playing all original compositions ("sketches," he called them). Some completely solo albums can come off as self-indulgent now & again--but not here. Brubeck is just as simply lyrical, spare (never stifles a song or idea with too many notes) and straightforward as he is when playing in a group context. To be sure, it's a more rhapsodic--and whimsical--side of Brubeck to be sure.
Note the touch of stride playing in "When I Was Young." The reflective (13ut not self-involved) ballad "In Your Own Sweet Way" has become a standard (Miles Davis recorded it a month before Brubeck), performed & recorded by many. He sounds jaunty on "Walkin' Line" (more touches of stride--a Fats Waller influence?) and is wryly yet respectfully bluesy on his Ellington tribute, "The Duke." On the latter, Brubeck seems to absorb and filter Ellington riffs and motifs through his own style, making it a far more memorable salute than merely covering an Ellington tune--positively Ducal!
This is less the "cool school" Brubeck that one might associate with his group work. Here, he is simply a superb jazz pianist, not easily relegated to any "school" of playing. Though that era's hard-bop seems to have little overt influence here--but hey, how do I know what the man was thinking? It's just deceptively easygoing, urbane jazz piano playing, served up with a relaxed confidence one hears too rarely these days.