Monday, November 14, 2011

Dave Brubeck: Their Last Time Out

Dave Brubeck (piano)
Their Last Time Out (Columbia/Legacy; 2011)
Paul Desmond (sax)
Joe Morello (drums)
Eugene Wright (bass)

I seem to not write about the great Dave Brubeck enough. While other contemporaries have made waves on the piano or organ (Monk, Hancock, Smith or Young), Brubeck quietly grew in stature and popularity through consistent compositions and performances both on record and live.

His major quartet consists of Desmond, Morello and Wright--the group recording the jazz classic/benchmark, Time Out (Columbia; 1959). The quartet began recording together over a decade ago.

On December 26, 1667, the quartet would perform their very last concert together in Pittsburgh, PA (USA) and now the music is entitled Their Last Time Out. Brubeck had mentioned a few months earlier that he wanted to retire (that would later never happen). While there are a number of Brubeck concerts (a majority of them official releases), the obvious significance here is both "last" and Brubeck's greatest quartet.

This was a night where Brubeck and the group just let loose and kept swinging. Opening with the heavy-hitting "St. Louis Blues," led more by Morello's pounding beat, Desmond engrossed chords and Wright's infectious plucking, the piece will undoubtedly have in tapping your feet or getting you out of your seat to dance. "Take The "A" Train," one of Brubeck's favourite tunes has an even more poignant purpose on this evening. Each member is in smokin' form. Morello and Brubeck share some delightful and hard driving exchanges. It's wonderful to see the group having so much fun even as they know its their last gig together.

"You Go To My Head" displays all the bluesy romantic quality. Brubeck and Desmond are monstrous in a gentle way. Desmond's solo midway through is lush and emotional. This draws a stirring applause from the lucky audience. Brubeck's timing and performance is exceptional here. He notes a touching and radiant. "Set My People Free" written by Wright as a protest song to political and civil situation of the times, is powerful yet still maintain the traditional essence of the group. Brubeck and Wright swing in a gospel that fashion that will definitely have you saying amen!

And of course, the evening couldn't end without what had already become a classic standard in jazz history--"Time Out." Here though you get a lot improvising from Desmond and Morello along with a few extended solos. It's one of the stronger performances of the piece I have heard on a live recording. It's a ferocious version that even takes in a few Indian-theme chords by Desmond. Brubeck does his own bit of improvising toward the end of the piece. And the rest of group begin to follow until its raucous full-stop.

Their Last Time Out is magnificent and significant piece of history that must be heard by an jazz fan. It shows a great quartet swinging and improvising at the height of its powers but leaving us all wanting more...

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