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Dave Brubeck: Live From the Northwest, 1959


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Last week, I pulled a new album loose from an envelope and the first thought I had was, “Goodness, do we really need another live album from the Dave Brubeck Quartet?" The track list wasn't much help selling me on giving the CD a listen, with songs like When the Saints Go Marching In and The Lonesome Road.

But because I spent an afternoon with Dave at his home this time of year back in 2010 and because Lydia Liebman is such a good publicist and I'm hopelessly addicted to Paul Desmond's alto saxophone, I slipped it on. Talk about you can't tell a record by its song list. The new album, The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Live From the Northwest, 1959 (Brubeck Editions), is spectacular.

To the best of my knowledge, the music here is previously unreleased. A European bootleg surfaced in 2010 with the title, Dave Brubeck Quartet: Live in Portland 1959. My guess is that material is from another Portland gig or, if there is overlap, the bootleg's audio is so miserable that it clearly must have been recorded by a fan with a hidden recorder rather than the pristine, studio-quality tapes used for this new release.

Captured over two days, on April 4 at the Multnomah Hotel in Portland, Washington, and on April 5 at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, the quartet featured Dave (p), Paul Desmond (as), Eugene Wright (b) and Joe Morello (d). Later that month, they would go into a Los Angeles studio to record their next album, Gone With the Wind. As a result, a number of the songs performed were songs that would appear on the LP dominated by songs of the South.

Time Out, Dave's biggest seller, featuring jazz songs in unusual meters, wouldn't be recorded until the summer of 1959 and released that December. The two albums were somewhat related. Gone With the Wind was conceived as a straight-ahead bulwark to shield the group and Columbia's finances from blowback if critics tore into Time Out. We now know they didn't, and everyone profited handsomely.

The tracks on the new live album are “When the Saints Go Marching In," “Basin Street Blues," “These Foolish Things," “Gone With the Wind," “Multnomah Blues," “Two-Part Contention" and “The Lonesome Road."

The quartet's magic touch makes it impossible to be fed up with the first and second tracks; “These Foolish Things" is extraordinary in that Dave plays much of his solo with heavy, chunky chords before the quartet lightens up and swings the rest; “Gone With the Wind" is airy and blows around like a leaf (listen for Dave's marvelous double-tag of “It's Sand, Man" and “Cheerful Little Earful"); "Multnomah Blues" is a smooth and lilting mid-tempo blues; “Two-Part Contention" is a showcase for Dave's block chords and Desmond's kite-like double-time blowing; and “The Lonesome Road" taxis slowly and then takes off down the Brubeck runway.

Sound engineer Wally Heider recorded the two dates perfectly, allowing us to hear each member of the quartet distinctly. Heider, of course, would go on to record rock's San Francisco sound in the late 1960s and launch major studios in L.A. and San Francisco.

Unfortunately the new album's liner notes don't detail where the tapes came from. Was the Heider family sitting on them? Or did Dave's heirs just discover the reels in their late father's collection? However they made their way into daylight, the album is a worthy addition to the Brubeck catalog. A reminder that jazz was once thinking music that made you feel deeply.

Listening to Dave, Desmond, Wright and Morello, one can't help but be swept away by the passion, the artistic camaraderie and breezy complexity of the music. The music makes one yearn for jazz's sunny era when the music was considered exceptional by critics, adored by audiences and beloved by record buyers. It was uplifting, commercially appealing and highly artistic. You don't hear that trifecta too often today in any style of music.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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Track Listing

When the Saints Go Marching In; Basin Street Blues; These Foolish Things; Gone With the Wind; Multnomah Blues; Two Part Contention; The Lonesome Road.


Album information

Title: Live From the Northwest, 1959 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Brubeck Editions





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