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The Dave Brubeck Quartet: London Flat, London Sharp

Jim Santella By

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Dave Brubeck will turn 85 in December. He's given the world a clear picture of what jazz is and which threads remain as its core elements. We'll always be thankful for that.

Recorded in a New York studio last year with his current quartet, London Flat, London Sharp presents nine of the pianist's compositions and one by Derrill Bodley. Mr. Bodley wrote "Steps to Peace" for his daughter, who was aboard Flight 93 when it crashed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. As Brubeck has done many times before, he's captured the essence. Each piece carries with it a specific purpose and affords a unique opportunity for reflection.

"Steps to Peace" begins with a dreamy piano sequence and adds Bobby Militello's flute melody in a slow, somber soliloquy. Bass and drums provide heartbeat pulses that move with a natural air as the quartet reflects upon how the world changed that day and where we're headed.

Brubeck includes "Ballad of the Rhine," which he wrote in 1945 while serving with the US Army under General Patton. This solo piano lets the composer describe what he felt while watching Allied tanks hit the pontoon bridges on their way to victory a long time ago. Unfortunately, war is still with us, and young composers today still have the opportunity to reflect on its tragic power through song.

Not all of London Flat, London Sharp turns out slow and reflective, however, and Brubeck includes many of the magisterial qualities in this program that he's supported this last half century. Militello's alto saxophone meshes evenly with piano in an undercurrent of overlapping melodies. The quartet remains loose and worry-free as they explore modern jazz with an upbeat spirit.

Track Listing: London Flat, London Sharp; To Sit and Dream; The Time of Our Madness; Unisphere; Steps to Peace; Forty Days; Cassandra; Yes, We All Have Our Cross to Bear; Mr. Fats; Ballad of the Rhine

Personnel: Dave Brubeck, piano; Bobby Militello, alto sax and flute; Michael Moore, double bass; Randy Jones, drums

Title: London Flat, London Sharp | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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