As Dave Brubeck attains octogenarian status this year, he still plays with the energy and imagination of a thirty-year-old. And that's no exaggeration. Would that all of us will be so creative, active and fulfilled at 80!
Brubeck's most recent album, One Alone, contains some tunes recorded in 2000. Thus, it provides greater proof of his recent recording strength than the two-CD set, Double Live From the USA & UK, does. For it turns out that Double Live From the USA & UK is a catch-up project that finally releases additional tracks recorded by the prolific Brubeck several years ago. The "USA" CD was recorded in 1995 (making Brubeck actually a mid-septuagenarian when it was recorded) at the same time that he recorded his previous Telarc album, To Hope! A Celebration at the Washington National Cathedral. The "UK" CD consists of additional tunes that Brubeck's quartet recorded during his 1998 tour of England. A hint of what was to come was revealed on Brubeck's earlier album, The 40th Anniversary Tour Of The U.K.
Brubeck's intention all along was to release these extra recordings as companions to the earlier albums. And of course, it makes a lot of sense to finally distribute them to the world as part of his eightieth-birthday celebration year.
Performing with alto saxophonist Bobby Militello, Brubeck used his familiar rhythm section of Jack Six on bass and Randy Jones on drums when he extended his performance at the Washington National Cathedral on a warm, un-airconditioned and sweaty afternoon. After Six retired in early 1998, Brubeck toured with Alec Dankworth throughout England at the recommendation of Marian McPartland.
Militello in particular adds a brightness to the quartet, and actually was inspired by Paul Desmond's approach to alto saxophone. With a more aggressive attack than Desmond, Militello still evokes the Desmond spirit through his lyrical approach to creating solos, his joyful tone and his wit in quoting familiar tunes and injecting them into his improvisations.
While the two quartets are fairly close in tempo and spirit, despite the oceanic divide between the sessions, Double Live From the USA & UK is significant in the respect that both CD's include new Brubeck compositions like "Be Natural Blues" or tunes they hadn't played before like "Margie."
All of the components of classic Brubeck performances are there: his broad block-chorded choruses, his staggering of the beat to create metrical tension, his stride implications, his originality in developing personalized modulations embellished by internal chord movement and his blending of classically trained technique with the American songbook for a unique synthesis.
Brubeck calling of unrehearsed numbers at the spur of the moment connects with the spontaneity of the audience's appreciation, and it establishes a sense of fun in both CD's. The unanticipated "Exactly Like You" starts with Brubeck's slow solo development before the other members of the quartet pick up on the tunes.
"Cherokee," which Brubeck hadn't recorded before, surprisingly turns into a tour de force for Militello. That should be no surprise since saxophonists have always risen to the challenge of the tune, but Militello stamps his own imprint on it with a dizzying flurry that holds its own to previous versions. Plus, it is quite unlike anything that Desmond would have contributed.
The USA quartet's interpretation of Brubeck's "Broadway Bossa Nova" assumes a livelier Latin attitude than what appeared on the original Mr. Broadway album, especially as a result of Six's resonant bass work. "The Things You Never Remember" reinforces Brubeck's ability to bring a ballad (of course, his own) to life with audience-engaging suspension of meter and swelling dynamics.
It seems that the consistent characteristic of the two CD's is the quartet's fun with the music. That sense of fun always elevates a performance to the realm of memorability and collectability. As a result, Double Live From the USA & UK contains 17 memorable and collectible tracks by not merely a senior statesman of jazz, but also one of the foremost developers of the genre.
Track Listing: Disk 1: Body And Soul, Cherokee, Easy To Love, What Will I Tell My Heart, Sunny Side Of The Street, The Things You Never Remember, Broadway Bossa Nova, Don't Worry About Me; Take Five
Disk 2: Margie, Waltzing, Marian McPartland, Exactly Like You, Three To Get Ready, Take Five, Take The A Train, Be Natural Blues
Personnel: Dave Brubeck, piano; Bobby Militello, alto sax; Jack Six, Alec Dankworth, bass; Randy Jones, drums