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Live Reviews

Triple Play with Dave Brubeck: Saratoga Springs, NY, June 10, 2011

By Published: June 23, 2011
The second half opened with a rendition of Dave Brubeck's second most famous tune, "Blue Ronda a la Turk" and at the point where it breaks from Turkish-influenced rhythm into American blues out walked the composer, taking the piano chair to wild applause. The legend doesn't have the dexterity of old, but the second he started placing two-handed block chords in just the right place for the tune, there was his signature sound. It's something he's always done, even when he could run up and down the keyboard with more fervor. His spares solo on "St. Louis Blues" also created the right feel.

A snappy version of "Three to Get Ready" showed sheer joy. Each member of Triple Play was full into the spirit of playing with the icon, and Dave Brubeck's face continually lit into a smile as he attentively took in the solos of everyone else, as well as admiring the band's groove. When the band members walked to the side, Brubeck the pianist played solo. His Chopin-inspired "Thank You" was a delight. Brubeck's keyboard agility kicked up a couple notches. With two hands he created a chordal landscape that was melancholy, touching and rich, and he added single-note runs that were inventive and intelligent. Classic stuff.

The group ran down some other Dave Brubeck material and, of course, slid into "Take Five." Frank Brown took his most imaginative blues solo of the night, perhaps inspired by the presence of the master comping behind him. His sound and style fit perfectly. Joel's solo too was among his best, crisp and creative, as usual. The drums are an important part of the backdrop for this classic song when the Dave Brubeck quartet performs it, so it was intriguing to see Triple Play execute it just as effectively without drums. It was quieter, but Dave's economical blues and comping put in the right feel, as did his son's electric bass.

Ellington's "A Train" closed the night, but it was really capped off by the classic "Take Five" which set off grins among all the musicians as well as the audience. Skidmore's Zankel Hall was lifted, as was everyone as the filed out. That's the way music is supposed to be and, as Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
once opined, it surely knocked off the dust of everyday life.

"We know we're not the most famous group in the world," said Chris, in that conversation a couple weeks before. "But when people come to see us, they're scratching their head and going, 'Why aren't you more famous?' We just do what we do. We keep playing. We have a great attitude and a great time. Whatever we're doing, we know it's working because it happens every time when we play in front of an audience." Damn straight.

He also said of his father, "He might come out to the piano obviously showing his 90 years in terms of his ability to walk out there. It's not like he's sprinting out there and doing cartwheels to get to the piano seat. But when he sits down. It seems like the decades melt away while he plays." That's no lie. Gingerly assisted when he first came out, the icon's playing was full of musical knowledge and real feeling. It got better and better. And when he left, to wild ovations, he was beaming. He really didn't need his son's assistance. He was buoyed.

Hell, we all were.

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