March 2, 1953: Dave Brubeck records "Jazz at Oberlin" on Fantasy Records.
Dave Brubeck: piano
Paul Desmond: alto sax
Ron Crotty: bass
Lloyd Davis: drums
I find it hard to believe that when I arrived on a college campus in the early sixties I was quickly indoctrinated by the insiders among the jazz players into disavowing any interest in the music of Brubeck or Desmond. Both were deemed not only too commercial but too West Coast, too white, too fay, too unaffected by the Bird revolution.
Not only is the foregoing among the most myopic viewpoints ever shared by musicians, but it is equally mistaken to assume Brubeck's music is not a force to be reckoned with until the Time Out recordings. Let the Oberlin record speak for itself: it represents improvisation of the highest order by two musicians at the very peak of their creative powers.
Take Paul's solo on Just the Way You Look Tonight: He quotes from Prokofief, Stravinsky, and at least three American composers while building an emotional, pyrotechnical, beautifully structured solo spurred on by the audible vocal encouragements of Brubeck himself. Who could follow that? Brubeck does, not only matching but possibly topping it, with thunderous, wildly inventive yet boldly assertive, polyrhythmic melodic statements played in octaves in the left hand.
There's a widespread myth, proven wrong time and again, that the best music occurs when great soloists are accompanied by equally heralded drummers and bass players. To the contrary, the most spirited and swinging jazz always happens when players know their roles and listen to each other.
Before your jazz collection numbers more than 10 albums, make certain that this is one of them.
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