My wife used to think that Paul Desmond was Dave Brubeck. (No, she is not the woman who once actually asked Desmond, "How many of you are there in your quartet?") What she heard was Desmond's dry martini sound (his phrase) on alto. What I associated with the early trio is Brubeck's percussive touch and his time-shifting presence. This new solo album exhibits a more sensitive, yet often swinging, side of that piano master. It may have to do with him approaching 80. Age seems to have sharpened his creative acuity without putting any dents in his ability.
This is mood music but not in the usual sense. Brubeck does not lead us down a one-mood road but uses harmonic, melodic and tempo variations to interpret the many moods within each song. His treatment of "One Alone" covers both the melancholy and occasionally pleasurable sides of that situation. It's in sharp contrast to my prior associations with that old Romberg operetta chestnut. With "You've Got Me Crying Again" a swing interlude represents tears of happiness. He caresses "Someone to Watch Over Me" and teases "Just Squeeze Me."
There is over an hour of music here. Brubeck also applies that incredible imagination and those lovely alternative harmonies to "That Old Feeling," "I'll Never Smile Again" "Harbor Lights," "Things Ain't What They Used To Be," and "Red Sails." "Bye Bye Blues" just floats along as the master gives us all a lesson in stride piano. His impressionistic "Over The Rainbow", which ends with the softest note on the album, is right there with a version I love from Mary Lou Williams' 1978 solo Montreux recital on Verve. The only originals are the lyrical "Summer Song" and an emotional reading of "Weep No More" from 1945.
Wonderfully recorded. Eloquent. Beautiful. Special! I plan to play this CD over and over - and over.