Even casual jazz fans will recognize the name Brubeck. Pianist Dave Brubeck led a popular 1950s quartet that recorded the now instantly recognizable "Take Five," a rare cross-over jazz and popular music hit (and rarer still for becoming popular with an odd 5/4 time signature). However, it takes a somewhat more knowledgeable fan to know that there are some other accomplished Brubecks, namely Dave's sons Chris, Dan, and Darius. Chris and Dan were part of the rhythm section in their father's quartet during the 70s and 80s - Chris as a self-taught bassist and Dan as the drummer.
Chris formally trained on the piano and picked up the trombone in junior high school, in addition to learning the bass. Over the years he has become an accomplished composer in what has been called "crossover classical," which is essentially classical music infused and/or intermingled with jazz rhythms and harmonic structures. This CD includes the first recording of Chris's "Vignettes for Nonet" in the crossover classical style, a commissioned piece that premiered in 2003 at the Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockport, Maine. It became an immediate favorite for woodwind quintets all over the world.
Dan Brubeck more than holds up his end of the musical brotherhood. In addition to having played in the Dave Brubeck Quartet, he led his own jazz group called The Dolphins, recording three CDs during the 1990s. He's been a regular with Larry Coryell since the late 70s and has also recorded with Michael Franks, Livingston Taylor, and others. Perhaps it isn't surprising that, given his father's propensity for unusual time signatures, Dan has a keen sense for playing complex rhythms. Classified amply features these skills with three tunes: "Dance of the Shadows" is a 5/4 Bossa Nova, "7th Sense" is in 7/4, and his father's own "Blue Rondo a la Turk" in the tricky, alternating patterns of 9/8.
The first seven tunes on Classified offer top-notch quartet jazz. Pianist Chuck Lamb, making his recording debut with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, covers the keys extremely well - clean, tasteful, and rich. Mike DeMicco has been the brother's long-time guitarist, working with them since the late 1980s (and part of Dan's group The Dolphins). DeMicco can play with both finesse and urgency as required; he and Lamb complement one another superbly. They each contributed two original tunes to the session: DeMicco wrote "Good Question" and "Eclipse" while Lamb stirred in "Cool on the Coast" and "Heyoke." The straight-ahead stuff on these seven tracks is technically pristine, offering both enthusiastic swing and chill jazz.
Jazz purists may be tempted to skip the three movements of Chris Brubeck's "Vignettes for Nonet" that follow. Braver listeners will be rewarded with a delightful exploration of the intersection of chamber music, swing, and be-bop; chamber jazz, if you will. Well worth the listen.