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Take Two: Variations on Dave Brubeck

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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The music of pianist Dave Brubeck has been cherished throughout the world since the mid 1950s. While he's written orchestral, choral and sacred work, his most familiar are jazz tunes like "Strange Meadowlark," "Blue Rondo A La Turk," "Three To Get Ready," "Unsquare Dance" and that mega-hit "Take Five," written by his band mate, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, and forever linked to Brubeck. This repertoire has been played and recorded a zillion times by admiring jazz musicians, and it's strong enough to generate multiple incarnations. Here are two delightful examples.



Quartet San Francisco
Quartet San Francisco Plays Brubeck
Violin Jazz Recordings
2009



In 2007, this terrific San Francisco based group dazzled with its unique creativity on Whirled Music (Violin Jazz Recordings). Now it's taken on Brubeck's canon, rendering some of his most famous melodies, and some less familiar, in its patented combination of tradition, elegance, humor and flat-out swing. As the QSF continues to dismantle the stuffy chamber music stereotype, it turns new light on the beauty of Brubeck's compositions, even weaving some of his original piano solos into their arrangements.



Highlights include the luscious "Strange Meadowlark" and "Bluette," the mischievous "Unsquare Dance" and "Kathy's Waltz," the classics "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo," and "The Duke," Brubeck's tribute to Duke Ellington, which is full of sly quotes from that other musical master (note: this arrangement is by yet another talented Brubeck, Dave's cellist son, Matthew). In sum, this CD is innovative, adventurous and brilliantly played. A real treat.



Triple Play
Triple Play Live
Blue Forest Records
2000



At the other end of the musical spectrum is Triple Play Live, which was recorded at Skidmore College in June of 2000. Here come those tunes again—"Take Five," "Blue Rondo," and "Unsquare Dance"—but this time they're riding in on funky electric bass, harmonica, guitar and jaw harp. (Now there's also a witty Chris Brubeck lyric to "Unsquare Dance" which makes light of its 7/4 rhythm: "Asymmetrically swing your partner round and round!") For those more familiar with Chris as one of the excellent Brubeck Brothers Quartet (with super-drummer brother Dan), or as a busy orchestral composer, this CD introduces his gifts for singing and songwriting. Two of his well-crafted tunes are here: the film noir-ish "This Is Where The Truth Lies" and the wistful "Now That The Children Are Gone," a baby-boomer anthem if ever there was one. Need a theme song, AARP? (That's American Association of Retired Persons, for readers outside the US).



Rounding out this thoroughly eclectic CD are some classic blues tunes, like Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," a huge hit for Cream in the 1960s; the recession-relevant "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out," and a laid-back, soulful version of "How Long." There's also a beautiful guitar instrumental by Joel Brown ("Rock Stream Sunday"), and two band originals: the haunting "The Road To Thomasville," and the high-energy, funkified "New Stew (Opus Two)." It all fits together because of the talent and taste of the musicians, who groove no matter what they're doing—and it's tremendous fun, to boot.






Tracks and Personnel



Quartet San Francisco Plays Brubeck



Tracks: Three To Get Ready; Strange Meadowlark; The Golden Horn; The Duke; Take Five; Kathy's Waltz; Blue Rondo A La Turk; Bluette; Unsquare Dance; It's A Raggy Waltz; Forty Days; Bonus Track: What Child is This?.



Personnel: Jeremy Cohen: violin; Alisa Rose: violin; Keith Lawrence: viola; Michelle Djokic: cello.



Triple Play Live

Tracks: Take Five; Polly; Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out; The Road To Thomasville; Now That The Children Are Gone; New Stew (Opus Two); Rock Stream Sunday; This Is Where The Truth Lies; Unsquare Dance; Blue Rondo A La Turk; Crossroads; How Long.

Personnel: Chris Brubeck: fretless bass, trombone, piano, vocals; Joel Brown: guitar and vocals; Peter Madcat Ruth: harmonica, jaw harp, hi hat, tambourine, vocals.


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