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Dave Brubeck at the Chicago Jazz Festival August 31, 2001

Ken Dryden By

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Over the past half century, the Dave Brubeck Quartet has undoubtedly been featured on numerous broadcasts on several continents, few of which have ever been issued by legitimate record labels. But this Labor Day weekend set from the 2001 Chicago Jazz Festival is rather special, as it not only includes his current quartet but also revisits some of the arrangements he wrote for his octet of the late 1940s.

Brubeck kicks off the festival with a favorite opener, "St. Louis Blues featuring Bobby Militello's blazing alto sax, Michael Moore's adventurous bass and the leader's rollicking piano, with the solid backing of his long time drummer Randy Jones. Brubeck premieres several tunes of recent vintage that appeared on his Telarc CD The Crossing, including the title track, named in honor of the passenger ship QE II, which the group had sailed upon in the summer of 2000 as part of a jazz cruise. If the ship sailed at the tempo set by the group in this piece, the engines would surely burn out. Moore's fine arco solo steals the show. Also recorded for the same CD were the gorgeous ballad "All My Love, written by Brubeck in the middle of the night during a trip to Hawaii with his wife, Iola, along with "Por Que No? (Why Not), a catchy Latin piece inspired by some of the music the composer heard aboard the ship. Brubeck has a bit of fun disguising the introduction to his "Travelin' Blues with a heavy-handed solo, though it really starts to wail with the addition of the full quartet.

The remainder of the concert features a recreation of his early octet arrangements, transcribed from aging acetate recordings by Jeff Lindberg, since the original manuscripts had been taken to Australia by former octet member Dave Van Kriedt and supposedly lost in a flood. To augment the quartet, Chicago musicians were recruited to play the octet material, including tenor saxophonist Eric Schneider, baritone saxophonist Ron Kolber, trombonist Audrey Morrison, and trumpeter Art Hoyle, with Brubeck's long time manager conducting the ensemble. A special guest is clarinetist Bill Smith, not a Chicago native, but an original member of the Octet. Minimal rehearsal time was available for the musicians to review these challenging arrangements, but they acquit themselves quite well.

In between numbers Brubeck discusses the background of the group, describing "a girl with perfect pitch singing e e cummings—not a popular thing, to the delight of the crowd. His innovative approach to "The Way You Look Tonight still sounds fresh today. Afterwards, he introduces the promising young pianist Taylor Eigsti (only 16 at the time) as his piano partner (and sometime substitute) of "You Go to My Head in 5/4, in a mesmerizing arrangement by Smith, who is also the featured soloist. Following "Laura and "Love Walked In, the audience goes wild as the group launches into "Take Five. The show seems to be over as the announcers discuss this historic event, but the group returns for a rousing workout of "Take the A Train.

Like any live performance, there are momentary problems with the audio, including feedback and the occasional bumped microphone. It's also apparent that more rehearsal time would have been helpful for the challenging arrangements that had to be sight read by the guest players. But any fan of Dave Brubeck would be happy to have a copy of this memorable broadcast, which aired live on many public radio stations across the nation.

Playlist

  1. St. Louis Blues (W. C. Handy)
  2. The Crossing (Dave Brubeck)
  3. All My Love (Dave Brubeck)
  4. Por Que No? (Dave Brubeck)
  5. Travelin' Blues (Dave Brubeck/Iola Brubeck)
  6. Dave Brubeck discusses the Octet
  7. Curtain Music (Dave Brubeck)
  8. talk
  9. The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields)
  10. talk
  11. What is This Thing Called Love? (Cole Porter)
  12. talk
  13. You Go to My Head (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie)
  14. Laura (David Raksin/Johnny Mercer)
  15. Love Walked In (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin)
  16. Take Five (Paul Desmond)
  17. CJF host commentary
  18. Take the A Train (Billy Strayhorn)

Personnel
Dave Brubeck-piano
Bobby Militello-alto sax
Michael Moore-bass
Randy Jones-drums
Bill Smith-clarinet (7-15)
Eric Schneider-tenor sax (7-15)
Ron Kolber-baritone sax (7-15)
Audrey Morrison-trombone (7-15)
Art Hoyle-trumpet (7-15)
Russell Gloyd-conductor (7-15)
Taylor Eigsti-piano (11-15)
Jeff Lindberg/octet transcriptions (7-15)

Photo Credit
Wolfgang Gonaus


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