Brubeck Brothers Quartet – LifeTimes – Blue Forest BFR-BB12004, 55:29 [7/24/12] ****:
(Chris Brubeck – electric bass, bass trombone; Dan Brubeck – drums; Mike DeMicco – guitar; Chuck Lamb – piano)
On LifeTimes, the fourth album attributed to the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Chris and Dan Brubeck do their famous father proud by covering five tunes performed, written or associated in some way with Dave Brubeck. The remaining three pieces are group originals which fit in well with the other material. As Chris Brubeck explains in his liner notes, “We all agreed that on LifeTimes it was time to show some heartfelt appreciation for the wonderful music created by one of the biggest inspirations in all of our lives.”
The program opens with Dave Brubeck’s durable 1955 work, “The Duke,” initially entitled “Duke Ellington Meets Darius Milhaud,” which honors Duke Ellington as well as Brubeck’s former Mills College music instructor/mentor. It was recorded and/or played extensively by Brubeck and other artists, including Teddy Wilson and Miles Davis. The number has a complex arrangement, with a bass line which goes through a twelve-tone row within the first eight bars. Having grown up with their father’s music, and also being a part of their dad’s bands (Two Generations of Brubeck and The New Brubeck Quartet), Chris and Dan Brubeck are familiar with this piece. The Brubeck Brothers give their own slight spin, where the tempo is adjusted to include both half time and double time from the first bar, with those same grooves alternating throughout the rest of the track. Chris’ electric bass and Dan’s drums click together as one rhythmic unit, while Chuck Lamb (piano) and Mick DeMicco (guitar) swap shrewd solos.
Another highlight is the popular “Kathy’s Waltz,” Dave Brubeck’s tribute to his daughter, first recorded for Brubeck’s definitive release, Time Out (1959). The cut commences with DeMicco’s graceful guitar solo introduction, and then the full quartet enters. While the group retains the tricky 3 against 2 jazz waltz feel, they slow down the beat and put their own imprint on the well-known melody. The foursome also interprets Dave Brubeck’s eloquent ballad “My One Bad Habit,” where Chris brings out his bass trombone for an affecting and sweet lead which complements the cut’s poignancy. The tune’s title refers to a statement made by Ella Fitzgerald: when Dave asked her how she was doing, she answered, “My one bad habit is falling in love.” Jazz vocal fans possibly will remember this as a Carmen McRae vehicle, with lyrics penned by Chris and Dan’s mother, Iola. The bass trombone is also utilized on “Jazzanians,” which has a driving pulse and upbeat swing. Dave Brubeck wrote this in the 1980s as a salute to Chris and Dan’s older brother, Darius: the tune’s name alludes to the multi-racial, South African student ensemble Darius created while he was teaching at The University of Natal. Brubeck listeners might have heard it when it appeared on Trio Brubeck (1993). The arrangement is enlarged, with multiple trombone overdubs, to provide a broader tone and sound than a quartet could usually muster. DeMicco and Lamb again offer excellent solos and also showcase how finely their guitar and piano can interact: sometimes those two instruments can clash in other outfits, but here the piano and guitar engage together with respect and authority. The set closes with the well-regarded and lasting jazz classic, “Take Five” (also from Time Out), composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond when he was a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Dan Brubeck begins with a second-line New Orleans groove in 5/4 time and then the celebrated melody locks in and the foursome is off and running. No matter how often someone hears this cut or how many interpretations are done (and the list is long), “Take Five” endures as an abiding standard. The Brubeck brothers lay down a solid groove and everyone contributes solo space. Lamb mirrors Dave Brubeck while furnishing his own creative perspective; Chris and Dan offer a bass/drums duet which follows the prominent “Take Five” groove while also exhibiting an intricate rhythmic interchange; and DeMicco displays a vivid forte: at times he evokes Wes Montgomery’s flowing style, while elsewhere he demonstrates a metrical approach which has a pianistic manner.
The three band originals are clustered in the album’s midsection. Lamb’s “Go Round” is a new number which the quartet responded to so quickly they did not even try it out in a live setting before tackling it in the studio. It has the hallmark qualities of an accepted jazz standard, with rolling percussion and infectious bass which endows the track with an appropriately circled characteristic. Lamb’s other donation is the soaring “The Girl from Massapequa,” which may or may not have to do with past media magnet Jessica Hahn, who was born in the Long Island community. “The Girl from Massapequa” is in the Brubeck tradition by virtue of being structurally untraditional, with a 10-bar form which follows a spiraling chord progression. In his liner notes, Chris describes the effect as “achieving the musical equivalent of a snake eating its tail.” DeMicco’s propulsive “Prezcence” pursues the long-established jazz convention of jamming over rhythm changes. “Prezcence” has a good-natured mood accented by Chris Brubeck’s entertaining bass soloing and equally witty trombone performance.
TrackList: The Duke; Jazzanians; Kathy’s Waltz; Go Round; Prezcence; The Girl from Massapequa; My One Bad Habit; Take Five.
A grand goodbye to a jazz giant.