Still on top of his game
From the Summer 2003 issue.
Park Avenue South
By Dave Brubeck
Telarc Records: 2002
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
It's endearing, a jazz icon feeling his way into the opening chords of the classic "On the Sunny Side of the Street", sounding a tad tentative.
Dave Brubeck has been playing first-rate jazz for over fifty years. The pianist, in 1954, was the first jazz artist to grace the cover of Time Magazine; and his classic album from 1959, "Time Out," is one of the biggest selling jazz recordings of all time. So it's a surprise to hear him sounding a bit unsure as he feels his way, unaccompanied, into the opening track.
The Quartet recorded "Park Avenue South" live at a Starbucks coffee shop in Manhattan, a new style of venue for Brubeck who probably thought he'd seen them all. The band as the pianist tells it in his liner notes was wedged into a corner, windows angling away from them on either side, passersby on the sidewalk an arm's length away. Which probably accounts for the opening that probes around for assurance. In fact, Brubeck states that he had to close his eyes to block out the the distractions while he played.
It must have worked, because a minute into "Sunny Side", when alto saxophonist Bobby Militello blows in, pulling the rest of the rhythm with him, everything gels. The guys sound like they've been playing for ... well, fifty years.
Militello, throughout, solos superbly, with a free-flung approach that pushes the melody to the limits without losing it. And of course Brubeck is an always adroit accompanist, and a sharp, incisive, even fiery solist (at eighty-three years of age) himself.
Another classic, Cole Porter's ageless "Love for Sale" follows the opener. It swings in the Quartet's hands, a cheery, upbeat rendition, with Militello's sax containing some grit, the band behind him tight, snapping the rhythm along.
More classics: "Love is Just Around the Corner", "On a Slow Boat to China" and some Brubeck originals round out the show. And of course there's "Take Five," one of the most recognizable jazz tunes, from the "Time Out" album. The song takes flight here, with reverence, allowing for some solo room for each of the instrumentalists.
Another fine recording by a jazz giant still on top of his game.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.