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If there is any artist perfectly suited to jazz festivals, it's pianist Dave Brubeck. He gained notoriety through playing for eager tweed jacketed undergrads at college concert halls instead of for barflies at dingy clubs and recorded a few hit songs without losing his jazz cred. It makes sense, then, that Brubeck has performed several times at the Monterey Jazz Fesitval. Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007 captures him from several different years there, and with several different bands.
The first, of course, captures the famed Brubeck/Desmond collaboration from the fifties and sixties. The disc begins with "Two Part Contention," previously only heard in a solo reading; the quartet handles the tricky changes with aplomb. This is followed by "Someday My Prince Will Come," which Brubeck helped turn into a standard, and altoist Paul Desmond's "Take Five." By this time the elbows on this song were well-worn, yet the quartet tears into it with feverish abandon; Brubeck even contributes a solo at his most atonal.
Next come a few tracks featuring baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, a fellow West Coaster who fit right into the Brubeck sensibility and brought a few songs of his own. "Sermon on the Mount," from 1971, has a Coltranesque feel, while "Jumping Bean" is a typically rowdy Mulligan chart. Next comes "Tritonis" from 1985, one of Brubeck's later compositions, and one of his thornier. He is reunited with clarinetist Bill Smith, a frequent collaborator from the fifties, and Bobby Militello on flute, a timbre which adds a new tone to Brubeck's palette. A beautiful redition of "Goodbye, Old Friend," written for Mulligan, sounds exactly like the title, and is the most beautiful song on the album. A must hear for those whose interest in Brubeck doesn't yet extend past the fifties.
The last three tracks are collaborations between the old and new, but suffer simply because they are the kinds of tunes that the group can play without much rehearsal. Plus, Militello's alto sax is a little too ramped up for Brubeck's style; he requires someone who can play a little smoother to contrast the edginess of his piano playing.
All in all, a wonderful look at the festival career of one of jazz's greats. The tracks with Desmond are delightful, and the rest of the tracks help round out a decent glimpse of this jazz genius.
Track Listing: Two Part Contention; Someday My Prince Will Come; Take Five; Sermon On the Mount; Jumping Bean; Tritonis; Goodbye Old Friend; I Got Rhythm; Sleep; Margie.
Personnel: Dave Brubeck: piano; Paul Desmond: alto sax; Eugene Wright: bass; Joe Morello: drums; Gerry Mulligan: baritone sax; Jack Six: bass; Alan Dawson: drums; Bill Smith: clarinet; Bobby Militello: flute, alto sax: Chris Brubeck: bass; Randy Jones: drums; Stan Poplin: bass; Christian McBride: bass; Michael Moore: bass.