The Brubeck Brothers Quartet: Classified (2008)
This is the follow-up to the well-received Brubeck Brothers Quartet's Intuition (Koch, 2006), which spent three months in the jazz top 20. There are some obvious similarities: Classified is also unusually bountiful, weighing in at over 78 generous minutes; the band (aka the BBQ) features three of the same stellar players, now with regular touring partner Chuck Lamb rather than wunderkind Taylor Eigsti at the piano; and the music is uniformly excellent in its composition, execution, and recording quality. Now for the details.
The title reflects the fact that Classified embraces some classical instrumentation: specifically, the three delightful movements of Chris Brubeck's "Vignettes for Nonet" are played by the BBQ and Imani Winds, the Grammy-nominated reed quintet. But one of the many remarkable things about this CD is that when the jazz and classical are merged, you hear no seams: instead, the two simply melt into each other in a surprisingly natural way.
Other notable elements: the classy choices of pianist/composer Chuck Lamb; the flowing lines of guitarist/composer Mike DeMicco; Chris Brubeck's sly wit on trombone, fretless bass, and composition; and Dan Brubeck's distinctive drumming, which somehow manages to be full of swing and space at the same time, his exciting solos at the end of "Good Question" and "Eclipse," for example. Favorite tracks: the warm bossa, "Dance of the Shadows," the playful "Nonet," the mysterious "7th Sense" (original title: "The Seven Seas of Captain Voodoo"), the soulful "Friends Beyond Time," and that familiar, much-beloved closer, which in this treatment could get a slight name shift, to "Blues Rondo a La Turk."
Once again the BBQ attains that rarefied level where music is both relaxed and expressive, and their joy in its creation is contagious. There's really nothing out there that comes close to their unique brand of inventiveness.
Track Listing: Good Question; Cool on the Coast; Eclipse; Dance of the Shadows; Heyoke; 7th Sense; Friends Beyond Time; Vignettes for Nonet, Mvt. I; Vignettes for Nonet, Mvt. II; Vignettes for Nonet, Mvt. III; Blue Rondo a la Turk.
Personnel: Chris Brubeck: bass, bass trombone; Dan Brubeck: drums; Mike DeMicco: guitar; Chuck Lamb: piano. Special guests Imani Winds (8-10): Valerie Coleman: flute; Monica Ellis: bassoon; Toyin Spellman-Diaz: oboe; Marian Adam: clarinet; Jeff Scott: French horn.