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Dave Brubeck and Mort Sahl


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Mort Sahl, a Canadian-born American comedian who helped pioneer socio-political satire in the 1950s and '60s, died on October 26. He was 94. For a brief moment in 1958, he hosted a pilot for a local San Franciso TV jazz show called Jam Session. He wasn't the show's planned host but he agreed to sit in. And why not? The group featured live at the Black Hawk was the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

What's special about the following clip is the intimacy. Normally, we see Dave, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello in concert on a large stage with a massive audience. This 12-minute clip gives you a sense of what it was like to see this group up close, in a club. Watch carefully during Summertime as Dave gets so carried away with his block chords that he snaps his head in time and accidentally flips off his glasses. I was certain Sahl was going to hand the blurry-eyed Dave two drinks with the line, “Here are your glasses, Dave."

One other note: The Duke is way more signature than one might imagine. So much so that only Dave plays it as it should be played. There are Dave-isms in there that can't be imitated. The song has to sound as if it's rolling gently town a flight of stairs like a rubber ball. Somehow only Dave's fingers are able to give it the right gentle feel with a sunny twist.

Here's the pilot...

Bonus: And here's an earlier Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1954 or early '55 playing The Duke. This time joining Dave and Paul are Bob Bates on bass and Joe Dodge on drums...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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