Music Review: Dave Brubeck — The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz, and Telarc
Moscow, 1987. A minute and six seconds into the performance of “St. Louis Blues,” the audience picks up on the cleverly disguised melody. Brubeck opened the piece with a three minute piano solo marked by a slow moody pace with hints at the melody. Suddenly after the buildup, at the three minute mark, the pace quickens and Randy Jones’ drums join closely followed by Chris Brubeck on bass and Bill Smith’s clarinet. Each member of the quartet gets solo/improv time in this almost ten minute cover of the W.C. Handy standard. It’s a great lead-in to the crowd-pleasing, much anticipated signature song for Brubeck, “Take Five.” Both of these tracks were recorded live and originally released on the album, “Moscow Night” on the Concord label.
What makes an anthology of an artist’s work “definitive”? In this case, it’s a collection of twenty-six tracks representing a career of seven decades. The selections were hand-picked by the man who has conducted for, produced and managed Dave Brubeck since 1976, Russell Gloyd. Gloyd’s detailed liner notes discuss why each track was chosen, how some are considered “historic” and intriguing stories about many of the tracks.
The performances are arranged in chronological order as Disc One opens with a 1942 clandestine recording of a piano solo in a college radio station. Jazz was taboo in those days and, as Gloyd says, “sinful." The first disc covers the 1940’s and 50’s when Brubeck was with the “Fantasy” label and covered standards and popular songs. Examples are “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Laura,” “Over the Rainbow,” and the song synonymous with bebop, “How High the Moon.”
Disc Two begins with the 1980s and ends with one of the five Brubeck original compositions on this disc, “Forty Days” from 2004. It also represents the transition from Fantasy Records to Concord and finally Telarc (which was eventually bought by Concord). In addition to the previously mentioned live tracks, a highlight on the second disc is “Black and Blue”, recorded at the Concord Jazz Festival and featuring Brubeck’s son, Chris, on bass trombone.Continued on the next page