Brubeck and Mulligan stretch out…

Dave Brubeck Trio featuring Gerry Mulligan – Blues Roots [TrackList follows] – Columbia/ Pure Pleasure CS 9749 vinyl (1968) [6/17/16] ****:

(Dave Brubeck – piano & honky-tonk-tuned piano; Gerry Mulligan – baritone sax; Jack Six – acoustic and Fender bass;  Alan Dawson – drums)

When the Dave Brubeck Quartet split up in 1967, and Paul Desmond moved on as a recording leader and solo artist, Brubeck began to explore some new avenues for expression. His quartet with Desmond was highly melodic, and Desmond stepped back when Dave took lead, content to let the pianist shine when leading the rhythm section.

However, with the arrival of Gerry Mulligan (on a temporary basis) in the quartet, Brubeck moved in a new direction toward more open improvisation. Dave and Gerry entered each others’ “territory” with open permission.

On Blues Roots the new quartet explored the blues with some gritty playing. In the general jazz public, Brubeck was not appreciated as a blues pianist. In the liner notes on the LP, Willie “The Lion” Smith on a Downbeat Blindfold Test extols Brubeck’s blues prowess, stating that he has “heavy hands.”

By spreading strips of copper over the piano’s strings, a honky-tonk effect enhances several of the tracks to give an old time ambiance. Dave’s muscular playing shines on “Limehouse Blues.” “Journey” is a mournful dirge and would have been proper for a memorial farewell for a fellow musician. There is some great improvisation on “Cross Ties.”

The honky-tonk effect on “Broke Blues” has a harpsichord feel and the counterpoint percussion of drummer Alan Dawson is quite effective. “Movin’ Out” has bassist Jack Six nicely upfront in the mix. The track builds to a crescendo with Mulligan pushing Brubeck to the end. The title track is straight up honky-tonk and Dave’s blues piano skills are on full display.

Special mention should be made regarding the superb acoustics on this 180 gm. vinyl release. Pure Pleasure’s ace remaster engineer, Ray Staff, deserves major kudos. Fans of Dave and Gerry will appreciate this new re-release.

Side 1: Limehouse Blues, Journey, Cross Ties
Side 2: Broke Blues, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be, Movin’ Out, Blues Roots

—Jeff Krow