“Brubeck” – Dave Brubeck Quartet, Zurich 1964/ Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series 42 – TCB Music 02422, 72:33 *****:
This is a terrific 1964 concert from a legendary jazz quartet!
(Dave Brubeck – piano; Paul Desmond – alto saxophone; Eugene Wright – double bass; Joe Morello – drums)
There have been many transformative jazz pianists. Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk are considered among the greatest. Dave Brubeck (the pride of Concord, California) is not always included with these legends. But as the founding member of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, he accomplished something unique. Brubeck was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1954. In typical humility, he bristled at this, and insisted that Duke Ellington was more deserving of this honor. At the time, the only other jazz artist to garner this recognition was Louis Armstrong. Brubeck ascended into jazz history with the 1959 album, Time Out. The classic quartet (which stayed intact for 16 years) included Paul Desmond (alto saxophone), Eugene Wright (double bass) and Joe Morello (drums). Brubeck’s discography is incredibly proficient, and the group was able to release multiple albums (up to four) in multiple years. Brubeck’s unique time signatures captivated audiences and music critics.
Now, sixty years after Brubeck’s inexorable march to jazz immortality, live recorded material of a 1964 concert has emerged. TCB Records has been noteworthy for many reasons, including the Swiss Radio Days series that has featured a variety of jazz greats, including Max Roach, Ray Charles,, Art Blakey, Quincy Jones, Thad Lewis/Mel Jones, Lionel Hampton, Stan Getz and Miles Davis to name a few. Dave Brubeck Quartet, Zurich 1964/Swiss Radio Days 42 is a gem of a concert. With improved audio, the quartet is once again vibrant. The opening cut “Audrey” (co-written with Desmond and recorded on Brubeck Time) is exemplary of the band chemistry. After an ethereal piano opening, Desmond takes the lead with his deft, lyrical touch. Brubeck brings the live forceful presence. He alternates between gentle swing notation and muscular chording. The complementary nature of these two veterans is amazing. As they play softly together at the end, it is compelling. Next up is “Cable Car” (from Time Changes) with its up-tempo 6/8. Brubeck’s extended solo is a polyrhythmic tour-de-force. Morello’s phenomenal drumming supports the unconventional cadences. A reference to “Love In Bloom” provides some humor as well.
“You Go To My Head” (a Billie Holiday favorite) has been a jazz staple. Desmond is at his best here, embracing the heartfelt melodic imagery anchored by Wright’s finger-snapping double bass. Brubeck’s spirited notation and impeccable phrasing is equal to Desmond’s artistry. When the quartet launches into “Take Five”, the crowd energy increases. Desmond (the composer) takes the melody into exotic shadings. The celebrated 5/4 arrangement approximates the original recording and it seems appropriate that Morello gets an opportunity to solo. The group mellows out on “Koto”. Brubeck’s elegiac solo is mesmerizing. Switching gears, the quartet swings on “Pennies From Heaven”. The group dynamics are on full display as Desmond’s jaunty riffs precede another Brubeck rhythm-defying solo, with prominent chording.
On a Morello composition, “Shim Wa” (also from Time Changes), the drummer sparkles on another solo (and blows the crowd away). Brubeck offers some bluesier jazz riffs that underscore his improvisational timing prowess. The final number (a Brubeck tune) of this impressive performance is simply titled “Thank You”. Desmond flourishes in the medium swing grooves. As he turns it over to Brubeck, the listener can grasp the innate “two sides of the same coin” vibe that resounds in this collaboration. Brubeck can take his play to classical fury and jazz agility with confidence and verve.
Dave Brubeck Quartet, Zurich 1964 is live jazz at its best. The audio quality is very good. The instruments have enhanced clarity and subtlety in tonality. It improves with every listen.
TrackList: Audrey; Cable Car; You Go To My Head; Take Five; Koto Song; Pennies From Heaven; Shimwa; Thank You