Dave Brubeck Quartet at the 1993 Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival

Ken Dryden By

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Public radio listeners were frequently frustrated when the Chicago Jazz Festival and Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival offered live satellite feeds to stations on the identical weekend (Labor Day), causing program directors to typically air one or the other, unless they chose to archive and rebroadcast the alternate.

Montreux-Detroit's lineup rivaled Chicago's, but the Motor City broadcasts had one major flaw: someone instructed the hosts of the nationally syndicated broadcasts to start talking at the top of the hour, whether or not the artists on stage (including local, national or international players) were through with their set; yet whoever was in charge of the Chicago broadcast realized that the music was why people tuned in and resisted the urge to interrupt. As a long time veteran of public radio, I am aware that reading underwriting spots can easily be done between sets, along with station IDs, but there was no legitimate excuse for this unwanted chatter. More in a moment...

I was thrilled to learn that the Dave Brubeck Quartet would appear at the 1993 Montreux- Detroit Festival. At the time, the lineup included clarinetist Bill Smith, bassist Jack Six and drummer Randy Jones (the latter who has been Brubeck's longest continuously serving sideman for ages). The group begins with one of the pianist's favorite openers, W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," with the leader clearly in a rollicking mood. Brubeck takes an extended, elaborate solo to introduce Jerome Kern's Yesterdays" (though not nearly as disguised as it would become within a few years), incorporating a bit of semi-classical and stride before the group finally enters. Earlier in 1993, Brubeck was asked to play a tune in honor of the recent flood victims, so he whimsically chose "River, Stay 'Way From My Door" and reprised this anecdote as the quartet offered a loping interpretation with Smith adding a wry solo. "Lover Man" is not a song one typically expects at a Brubeck concert, though he has vast repertoire to call upon at a given moment. Smith utilizes a digital delay to play back his solo feature, playing counterpoint with himself.

"Pange Lingua March," introduced on Brubeck's 1984 Concord album For Iola, is actually based upon an ancient Roman march. It provides quite a workout for the band, especially Randy Jones, though the sound technician has problems with the levels during this piece. "Koto Song" is one of the under-appreciated gems among Dave Brubeck's vast repertoire of originals. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the announcers had to blather away about festival sponsors Miller Beer, Northwest Airlines and Select Care instead of waiting for a break between acts. Even after this chore is over, the co-hosts keep talking about a contest and clearly don't have a clue how annoying they are. Nearly the entire song is dominated by this puzzling chit-chat.

The inevitable set closers, "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and the almost obligatory "Take Five," bring a roar from the crowd. This is a rewarding broadcast that would have been even better if wiser heads had prevailed about when to talk during a live, continuous broadcast.

Tracks: St. Louis Blues; Yesterdays; River, Stay 'Way From My Door; Lover Man; Pange Lingua March; Koto Song; Blue Rondo a la Turk; Take Five

Personnel: Dave Brubeck: piano; Bill Smith: clarinet; Jack Six: bass; Randy Jones: drums


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