Baltimore's Artscape Festival
Talk about class. Before one note was played, Dave Brubeck introduced the members of his band. They were Randy Jones on drums, Chris Brubeck on electric bass and trombone and Bobby Militello on alto sax. Artscape, by the way, is a free weekend-long festival of the arts held in Baltimore, Maryland each July, sponsored by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.
Nearing age 80, pianist/leader Dave Brubeck seems to be maintaining his high levels of creativity, energy and excitement. He just composed fifteen songs for the quartet's upcoming album.
The band led off with one of Brubeck's perennial favorite's, W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues", complete with funky introduction, saxophone so hot the crowd burst into applause during Militello's solo, and Dave really working the tune. On "Blue Rondo a la Turk", Dave demonstrated fabulous technique and great comping during son Chris' bass solo. Militello blew a million notes, but with soul. Brubeck's solo introduction to "Love for Sale" was played in epic classical style at times. Again, excellent comping for the sax solo, including rhythmic repetition of some of Militello's licks. I thought the piano solo showed Errol Garner influence. Brubeck actually played rhythmic counterpoint with himself! Next up was Brubeck's gorgeous new ballad, "All My Love", dedicated to his wife of 57 years, played as a duo with Militello. On "The Basie Band is Back in Town", all members played stylistic touches reminiscent of that band. For old time's sake, Brubeck threw stride into his solo. Chris B. took an excellent trombone solo. The last tune was, of course, "Take Five", a hard-driving version which afforded Randy Jones his only solo, hard-swinging, intricate and so interesting that Dave stood to check it out.
The only down note of the set was that the drums were already being whisked away by the stage crew as the crowd of 1,500 responded with encore-baiting enthusiasm.