The Brubeck Brothers Quartet: LifeTimes (2012)
LifeTimes, the fourth CD from the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, is a powerful tribute to musical giant Dave Brubeck by two of his natural sons (bassist/trombonist Chris Brubeck and drummer Dan Brubeck) and two of their "honorary brothers" (guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb). Half the compositions are Dave's, most of them dating back decades, but they are so freshly imagined that they sound as if they've just been written. The set ends with "Take Five," which is Paul Desmond's tune but arguably Dave's most famous performance (here, it starts with a second-line, New Orleans groove).
Downloaders will miss a rare historic document, as the CD package is full of nostalgic family photos and revealing notes by Chris, which includes this heartwarming sentence: "We have taken the greatest pleasure in playing these tracks for Dave, who, at nearly 92, grins from ear to ear when he hears our take on his ageless compositions."
While it's clear the project is historically important, the CD stands on its own because of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet's consistently high level of mastery. It's rare to find this combination of sizzling swing, rich melodies, tight arrangements, inventive solos, and warm, yet crisp recording. As always, Chris's fretless expressions on trombone and bass are strong, propulsive, and full of wit (check out his solos on both instruments in "Prezcence"), while Dan's polyrhythms are rarely less than electrifying. Both DeMicco and Lamb are also superb, and their compositions and interpretations fit seamlessly into the mix.
I have a special fondness for the driving juggernaut of "Jazzanians," but the whole CD rocks like mad. It only slows down once, for the ballad "My One Bad Habit," where Chris's trombone lead is achingly soulful. In sum, it's easy to understand why Dave was so happy to hear "LifeTimes"; I did quite a lot of grinning myself.
Track Listing: The Duke; Jazzanians; Kathy’s Waltz; Go Around; Prezcence; The Girl from Massapequa; My One Bad Habit; Take Five.
Personnel: Chris Brubeck: electric bass, bass trombone; Dan Brubeck: drums; Mike DeMicco: guitar; Chuck Lamb: piano.
Record Label: Blue Forest
Style: Modern Jazz