Dave Brubeck has always been able to effectively communicate with the average "Joe." His compositions bring a spark of recognition. It's jazz, but with an underlying meaning easy enough to comprehend at first listen. Stereotypes enter the picture when particular harmonies are employed or when distinctive rhythms dance freely. His quartet could easily make "Chopsticks" appeal to the masses with a moody intro, an easy-to-recognize head melody, inspired solos all around, and a return to the starting point.
With the exception of "Zen is When," the session was recorded in June 1964. The LP was released the following August. It's been out of print for quite some time, and this is the album's first reissue on CD. Since it's been re-mastered, the sound works out rather well. As a reissue, however, the CD runs only thirty-five minutes.
Brubeck had carried a sketchpad with him on the quartet's tour of Japan earlier that year. On the sketchpad, he had made detailed notes about his impressions and related musical themes that he intended to pursue. Naturally, the music contains temple blocks, gongs, open harmony and contrapuntal forms of impressionism. In Brubeck's original liner notes to the album, he says, "In their own 'pop' music, the Japanese seem to parody themselves, using parallel fourths and other Western ideas of how the Oriental should sound, performed with a 'Rock-a-Billy' beat." Brubeck employs these ideas himself a few times. Once the quartet gets into each piece, however, they're off and running. The Dave Brubeck Quartet carries an unmistakably light swing.
Split between ballads and up-tempo jazz jaunts, the session depicts various landscapes. A serene ballad, "Fujiyama" moves slowly with majesty. "The City is Crying" echoes scenes from a spring rainstorm, while "Koto Song" depicts the traditional artistry practiced by many. Brubeck's impressions of Japan relate to our general thoughts on the subject, bringing us together in more ways than one.
Personnel: Dave Brubeck- piano; Paul Desmond- alto saxophone; Eugene Wright- bass; Joe Morello- drums.