SmokeGood DrinkGood Magazine

Music: Diana Krall Pure Elegance and Grace A Style of Her Own

While I’m a new fan of Diana Krall, I have to say that she’s such a great talent, and I’m so glad that there’s an artist like her out there making music. In this day of “Mainstream Pop”, hearing someone who has real musicianship is a much needed change of pace. The first time I saw Diana was when I was watching Jazz Central on BET a few years ago, and I was truly impressed, but I never really tried to find out anything more about her, until this year. I was searching on the Internet and I found her rendition of “Christmas time is here”. I was totally blown away, and I had to find more.

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From the very first song, “Let’s face the music and dance”, with its steamy bossa nova, smokey delivery from Diana, and smooth string accompaniment, it’s really hard to put this album down. All of the arrangements are extremely well done, and Diana brings out all of the emotions of each song like she’s lived through them all. Especially the title track. I couldn’t stop listening to it.

I just hit the replay button, and fell into the lush sounds of the strings, the warm guitar, while I fell in love with Diana’s soothing, comforting voice. VERY few albums have ever done that to me before, and I can’t wait for her next effort so she can do it to me again.

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Now I can understand that people are mad that Diana doesn’t show off her great piano chops, and those who claim that she’s selling out, but I have to totally disagree. Diana doesn’t have to go the route of so many artists and use their albums to display how great they are; she just wants the music to show for itself. As for the selling out thing, she is more popular, yes. Being nominated for Album of the year proves that, but can’t an artist be allowed to grow, and even expand out of their genre ever so slightly? This album is NOT Pop and ESPECIALLY NOT elevator music. Having strings on a jazz album is also not a sign of selling out either. While the strings were certainly not needed, as she sounds just as great with just her trio, the strings just added a whole other dimension to the songs. I’m glad that she went that route, as it made for a wonderfully splendid album.

It couldn’t come any more highly recommended. Go get it now. And while you’re at it, newcomers should go and get her other albums as well, so you can see that her talent isn’t just a one-album affair; it’s the real deal.

Music: Miles Davis Made His First Mark “Birth of the Cool”

“Birth of the Cool” was where Miles Davis made his first mark in jazz. Possibly the most influential jazz artist of all-time, Miles was on the forefront of the music for several decades, essentially steering its path during that time, and with the landmark recordings that make up this CD, Miles Davis (as well as Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, who deserve just as much credit) gives birth to “cool” jazz. Though it has had a few detractors who’ve dismissed it as ‘boring’ and ‘bland,’ a majority of listeners are really taken by what Davis & Co. have accomplished here. That nonet only recorded 12 pieces in the studio, and the whole dozen have been collected in this remarkable compilation.

 

Davis’s lyrical, anti-virtuoso trumpet finds a beautiful soulmate in Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax (who also had a huge hand in writing much of the material as well). The recordings are most famous for the arrangements Evans, Mulligan, and a few others have given the music; elegant and sophisticated, it charts new territory in “big band” music, something that would ultimately lead to the quasi-orchestral music produced by Davis and Evans in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

A few years ago, it was thought that the definitive version of “Birth of the Cool” was released on a CD titled “The Complete Birth of the Cool,” a remastered disc that also contained live radio performances of the music. However, recently, famed recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder discovered the original master tapes that were used for the original 78’s (all 12 tracks were initially released as 78’s; they weren’t compiled on to an album until several years later). As it turned out, every Lp and CD of the album since then were made from Lp masters that were essentially safety copies.

Capitol was reluctant to remaster this material after just doing so, but supposedly Van Gelder convinced them to do so due to the quality of the masters. Now remastered and reissued under Blue Note’s RVG Series, this latest edition is simply incredible to listen to. Far better than older editions of this CD, it even outstrips the “Complete Birth of Cool” disc.

If you haven’t bought this music yet, this new RVG edition is definitely the one to get on the basis of sound. “The Complete” does have those radio performances, but while they are of obvious interest to lifelong jazz enthusiasts, I wouldn’t call them essential.

Music: Led Zeppelin – Timeless Classic Mothership

Led Zeppelin redefined rock in the Seventies and for all time. They were as influential in that decade as the Beatles were in the prior one. Their impact extends to classic and alternative rockers alike. Then and now, Led Zeppelin looms larger than life on the rock landscape as a band for the ages with an almost mystical power to evoke primal passions.

It’s rare that a group can truly rock todays world, but the arrival of MOTHERSHIP, the first-ever comprehensive 2CD Led Zeppelin compilation with the soon to follow re-release of The Song Remains The Same on CD & DVD and a concert event reuniting Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones qualifies. Produced by Page and mixed by Kevin Shirley, MOTHERSHIP’s 24 monolithic tracks were selected and sequenced by the band, who also oversaw the painstaking remastering.

Spanning their epic career, the unprecedented collection pulls immortal songs from all eight of the bands classic studio albums, one of the 20th century’s most enduring bodies of musical work. Arguably the most influential and innovative rock band ever, Led Zeppelin has sold over 200 million records worldwide. They continue to inspire successive generations with their passionate, groundbreaking, genre-transcendent, mystic, heavy and blues-infused rock n roll. Forty years since they formed, the song indeed remains the same.

The short guitar bursts on “Good Times Bad Times” that open this firecracker debut in 1969 could be viewed as a forewarning of great songs to come, some of the most historic moments in rock and roll. These four guys were actual musicians who, as a collective unit, created a sound that was unmatchable at the time. And they didn’t just blast away at their instruments, either. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” showcases gentle acoustic guitar at first, then later driving riffs that could inspire anyone to play air guitar.

Even on their first record, Zeppelin weren’t afraid to draw out their songs (some would say overstay their welcome), and four of the nine tunes last (and blast) for over six minutes. Like The Doors, Zeppelin had a keen interest in the blues; underneath all the raw rock on this album is a soulful, bluesy sound and aura with two Willie Dixon covers that the band “Zeppelinizes” to the max. Nothing, however, tops the segway from “You Shook Me” to the blazing “Dazed and Confused,” which sounds amazing, raw and blistering.

The organ work of John Paul Jones is truly beautiful, sounding like a church hymn on a rough-and-tumble rock and roll album. Undoubtedly, these British lads mixed sonic beauty and thrashing rawness to create an art form that still resonates today. “Black Mountain Side” is a busy acoustic ditty that sounds positively charming next to its follower, “Communication Breakdown,” but that’s Zeppelin’s style in a nutshell — heartlifting to raw in a matter of seconds.

These rocking songs come off as urgent and passionate. Lyrically, the album is all blues as Plant wails majestically about one heartbreak after the other, moaning about his lost women and unabashedly feeling lonesome and sorry for himself. No matter, he’d have plenty of time to attain more women in the future. This is the work of a band ready to take on the world on its own terms.

Music: Charles Mingus 1959 Classic – “Mingus Ah Um”

In 1959, Charles Mingus was at the height of his powers– in the midst of a roll from a stream of fine music on Atlantic, he signed to Columbia and delivered his first album in early 1959, “Mingus Ah Um”. Perhaps the best album Mingus ever recorded, Mingus augments his working band (saxaphonists John Handy and Booker Ervin, pianist Horace Parlan, and drummer Dannie Richmond) with reedman Shafi Hadi and either trombonist Willie Dennis or Jimmy Knepper, and produced an album of such startling variety and briliant performance that it demands attention.

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To this day, when someone curious about Mingus’ music asks me for a recommendation, without hesitation, I immediately suggest this album. From the opener, it all works– Mingus’ racing “Better Git It In Your Soul” is a gospel shout masked as a jazz piece– featuring the leader on rambling vocals, a gospel shout theme, a jaw dropping solo by Booker Ervin (under which the rest of the band claps rhythm) and just stunning and sensitive drumwork from Richmond that puts the exclamation mark on the piece– this really is about half of what Mingus has to offer as a musician. The other half comes in funereal ballad “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, second track on the album. A tribute to departed saxophonist Lester Young, Mingus evokes raw mourning in his sax line, and Handy’s solo and Mingus’ support of it are nothing short of astonishing (check Mingus’ echo of Handy’s fluttering for evidence of this).

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By the time you’ve finished these two tracks, if it’s not working for you, Mingus probably isn’t for you, and the rest of the record isn’t going to change anything.

Mind you, the rest is pretty good too, alternately energetic and explosive (“Bird Calls”) and mellow and beautiful (“Self-Portrait in Three Colors”) with at least one stunning arrangement (“Open Letter to Duke”) and another bonafide classic in “Fables of Faubus”. Composed about the then-governer of Arkansas and his segregation policies, “Fables” originally had vocals, but Columbia censored Mingus, fearing the outcome of such a move (check out “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus” on Candid for the uncensored version of the piece). The resulting piece has to rely on horns only for sarcasm and bitter exposition, which it does remarkably well, and it is full of bluesy solos, including a Mingus solo that is as biting as any vocal could be.



The reissue features pristine sound– it certainly could have been recorded yesterday, and three additional tracks that were unearthed in the ’70s. All three (particularly “Pedal Point Blues”) are fine material nad well worth having. Included in the liner notes are two essays– the original album notes and a new one, both of which are interesting reads.

“Mingus Ah Um” is one of the classics of Charles Mingus’ catalog, and is on the short list of essential jazz listening. Highly recommended.

Music: Jazz Masterpiece “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane

Arguably the best album John Coltrane ever recorded and consistently mentioned as the greatest album in jazz, “A Love Supreme” lives up to everything every melody.

Coltrane was riding an artistic high– enormously successful thanks to 1960’s “My Favorite Things“, he had quite a bit more latitude than many musicians, a producer who would support his every experiment in Bob Thiele, and a band willing to go wherever he needed (pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones) who he’d developed a rapport with over three years of constantly working together. He’d just recorded the stunning “Crescent” several months earlier and entered the studio in December to record this suite.

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The piece, as indicated by the liner notes Coltrane penned, is spiritually informed, a prayer offered to God. The music itself is based on relatively traditional structures, but Coltrane manages to juggle a number of influences and sounds– shades of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler all run through it. The suite is broken in four movements– “Acknowledgement” is patient and building, revolving around a four-note bass motif– Trane is exploratory and yearning.

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After a brief bass solo, this moves into the frantic “Resolution“, where Coltrane rails against his theme, turns things over to a oddly meditative yet equally frantic Tyner, and then solos himself in Monkish fashion– extrapolating off his theme and exploring the sort of spiritual ecstacy that he heard in Ayler. A brief drum solo signals the transition to “Pursuance“– Jones is full of energy and explosiveness and this sustains throughout the piece, Coltrane’s extended solo is nothing short of stunning, full of fire and energy before suddenly taming down and surrendering to Jones briefly then an astonishing solo by Garrison. Finally, the long exhale after the tension– “Psalm“, finds Coltrane meditative, almost wistful, and informed with a sense of optimistic melancholy.

When it’s all done, it’s an experience. Many listeners find this the first truly unlistenable Coltrane album– too much for its own good, but it certainly leaves its mark. My assessment is that the album is nothing short of stunning.

Music: B.B. King One of the Greatest Ambassadors of The Blues

B.B. King was certainly one of the greatest ambassadors of the blues that we had and this latest anthology–released is a well chosen collection of some of his best and best known songs. However, condensing a 50-plus-year recording career onto a single disc and calling it THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION borders on impossible.

However, give the compilers at Geffen Records their due. Through cross licensing they have been able to include some of his early RPM and Kent singles as well as his MCA material. [MCA has been B. B. King’s home since the late sixties.] The set begins with his first No. 1 R&B single “Three O’Clock Blues” in 1951 and continues through with the most recent song “Ten Long Years” from 2000’s collaboration with Eric Clapton, RIDING WITH THE KING.

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Even at twenty-one tracks, there is much that had to be eliminated from this collection. Only the last four tracks represent King’s post-seventies output. And over the past half dozen years alone, King has released some powerful albums, including 1999’s tribute to the music of Louis Jordan LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL and 2003’s collection of standards REFLECTIONS, neither of which is represented here.

What you do get though is classic B.B. King, including his 1964 crossover hit “Rock Me Baby,” a couple tracks from 1965’s LIVE AT THE REGAL “Every Day I Have the Blues and “Sweet Little Angel,” his signature song “The Thrill Is Gone” (which at No. 15 was his highest charting pop hit in 1970), and the 7″ edit and mix of “When Love Comes to Town” with U2.

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Overall, this is a satisfying collection and makes for a nice #smokegood #drinkgood situation. If you want a broader overview, consider 2000’s 2-disc anthology or 1992’s box set KING OF THE BLUES.

B.B. King Biography

For more than half a century, Riley B. King – better known as B.B. King – has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics. He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career. Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most celebrated blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.

B.B.’s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA. “King’s Spot,” became so popular, it was expanded and became the “Sepia Swing Club.” Soon B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King.

In the mid-1950s, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman. Ever since, each one of B.B.’s trademark Gibson guitars has been called Lucille.

Soon after his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues,” B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years.

Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In B.B.’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”

In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day who idolized B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. In “69, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them; Ike and Tina Turner also played on 18 shows.

B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987, and has received honorary doctorates from Tougaloo(MS) College in 1973; Yale University in 1977; Berklee College of Music in 1982; Rhodes College of Memphis in 1990; Mississippi Valley State University in 2002 and Brown University in 2007. In 1992, he received the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi.

In 1991, B.B. King’s Blues Club opened on Beale Street in Memphis, and in 1994, a second club was launched at Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles. A third club in New York City’s Times Square opened in June 2000 and most recently two clubs opened at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in January 2002. In 1996, the CD-Rom On The Road With B.B. King: An Interactive Autobiography was released to rave reviews. Also in 1996, B.B.’s autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (written with David Ritz for Avon Books) was published. In a similar vein, Doubleday published “The Arrival of B.B. King” by Charles Sawyer, in 1980.

Before his death, B.B. continued to tour extensively, averaging over 250 concerts per year around the world. Classics such as “Payin’ The Cost To Be The Boss,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” How Blue Can You Get,” “Everyday I Have The Blues,” and “Why I Sing The Blues” are concert (and fan) staples. Over the years, the Grammy Award-winner has had two #1 R&B hits, 1951’s “Three O’Clock Blues,” and 1952’s “You Don’t Know Me,” and four #2 R&B hits, 1953’s “Please Love Me,” 1954’s “You Upset Me Baby,” 1960’s “Sweet Sixteen, Part I,” and 1966’s “Don’t Answer The Door, Part I.” B.B.’s most popular crossover hit, 1970’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” went to #15 pop.

Music: Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’

Without a doubt Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers was the most exciting band I’ve heard perform in my quest to learn more about the Jazz greats. Moanin’ was recommended by my father who started me on the drums at 4 years old, he said “You need to checkout Art on the drums”.  I heard his week long gigs at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco were legendary. Every one of his many groups were outstanding though, propelling many of his “youngsters” into careers of their own.

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The group on this CD was one of the best. There are many things that make this CD a real joy. From the four original tunes by Benny Golson and the title track by Bobby Timmons to the solid muscular drumming of Blakey himself. For me though there is one thing that dominates this date Lee Morgan. Lee Morgan absolutely rules. Trumpeter Woody Shaw was once asked one of those interview questions, ‘What was your biggest influence?’ Without skipping a beat he said, ‘The solo Lee Morgan takes on “Moanin”. Amen.

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From the very first press roll off Blakey’s snare Morgan is launched. Bolting out of the gate this young artist is barely containable. The urgency of Art’s drumming and the rest of the team compels this dynamic trumpeter to dig deep, creating flurry after flurry of spectacular rhythmic gymnastics, artfully blending them with melodic ideas that just burst out. His harmonic ideas on this piece too are so sweet.

 

Morgan pulls out all the stops, at times employing his signature half valve technique, double tonguing, triple tonguing, slurring, sliding, and just plain carving up the beat. The elegant construction of this gem of a solo has you sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation and at times in disbelief. And what a tone! Smooth, round, big.

Lee’s solo on the alternate track is a nice addition and would have made a decent first cut if for some highly unfortunate reason his masterpiece was never recorded. The rest of this CD is excellent too by the way, sit back with a cigar and your favorite fine spirit, relax and enjoy!

Music: One Night in Tokyo by Chet Baker

Although Miles Davis’ masterpiece “Kind of Blue” might be the most listened to jazz album of all time-and it deserves to be-jazz fans should take note that Chet Baker “One Night in Tokyo” more than holds its own as far as musical quality and inventiveness are concerned. To add to the intrigue, Miles, Evans, Coltrane, Adderley, et.al., were at their musical peaks when “Blue” was recorded.

Chet, on the other hand, because of his unpredictability brought about by his much chronicled addiction, was considered by many critics to be a couple of decades past his peak . Yet, on that magical night in Tokyo, with dentures firmly in place, the jazz icon displayed incredible technique, ideas and control on such challenging tunes as “Seven Steps to Heaven,” and “Four.”

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“Almost Blue” is a song by Elvis Costello (Declan Patrick MacManus) that appears on his 1982 album Imperial Bedroom. This song was also performed by Chet Baker and appears on the album Chet Baker In Tokyo (1987) one of my favorite songs when I’m relaxing and smoking a cigar.  The groove is epic and surprisingly Chet Baker voice just enhances my relaxation. I would recommend every cigar lover try some of his music, your guaranteed to enjoy his smooth style and melodies.

With the masterful support of a rhythm ensemble reminiscent of the best of trios that painted a special satisfying texture to the Stan Getz and Miles Davis groups, Baker played the most exciting rendition of “My Funny Valentine” that I’ve ever heard from Chet or anyone else.

Perhaps most surprising for a musician not known for his range and technical dexterity, Baker’s flurry of perfect notes formed a magnificent weave of spellbinding phrases. Solos by the swinging and lyrical Harold Danko on piano paced by the highly inventive bassist, Hein Van Der Geyn, and a Tony Williams like performance by drummer, John Engels, made the moments when Chet wasn’t performing so pleasing and captivating to this listener that, at times, I nearly forgot that Chet was the headliner.

Although a drug-addled mess towards the end of his life, musically this recording finds him in top form on horn and vocals. It’s ironic how someone with such a warm tone could be so definitively associated with cool jazz.

Buy CD Online: One Night in Tokyo

Music: Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus

Though he lacked the improvisational fire of John Coltrane or the restless curiosity of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins played with a rich, round tone that complemented his melodic inclinations, making him the most accessible of the postbop musicians. Saxophone Colossus is the most successful of the late 1950s albums that made his reputation. Rollins’s playing never falters; he’s backed by the redoubtable Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Rollins is equally at home with the lilting Caribbean air of “St. Thomas,” standards (“You Don’t Know What Love Is”), blues (“Strode Rode,” featuring a driving Flanagan solo), and a smoldering version of Brecht-Weill’s “Moritat” (better known as “Mac the Knife”). If you are new to jazz, there is no better place to start than Saxophone Colossus.
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Sonny Rollins solidified his claim to the top tenor spot of the late 1950’s with albums like, “Way Out West” and this one. His tone is warm, full, and flawless as he swings his way through this set with Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. The calypso flavored “St Thomas” opens the disc and is a textbook example of what makes Rollins great. His playing is effortless, relaxed, and flawless. He displays his talent for uncovering unconventional material with a selection from a German musical here titled “Moritat”. The final track is the jazz masterpiece “Blue7”. Featuring masterful solos by Roach and Rollins this track leaves one feeling Sonny is cooler than most people could hope to be. Saxophone Colossus is one of those rare albums that is packed with legendary performances and future standards, flawless from top to bottom.

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Sonny Rollins , considered by many to be the quintessential live performer, admittedly felt restricted in a studio. However listening to his masterpiece Saxophone Colossus it is clear that he was on this occasion able to capture some of the energy of a live performance on vinyl. The record is a tour-du-force of Rollins musical vision and mastery of improvisational inventiveness within a melodic and harmonic form that draws the listener in chorus after chorus.

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Sonny Rollins is one of jazz’s great innovators, arguably the most influential tenor saxophonist, along with John Coltrane, in the history of modern jazz. He began his musical career at the age of eleven, and within five short years he was playing with the legendary Thelonious Monk. In the late forties, before his twenty-first birthday, Rollins was in full swing, recording with jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis, and he was hailed as the best jazz tenor man alive in the mid-fifties. Still active today, Rollins and his compelling sound reach a whole new generation of listeners with his eagerly anticipated live appearances.


Music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Time Out” A Timeless Classic

Boasting the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies, the Paul Desmond-penned “Take Five,” Time Out captures the celebrated jazz quartet at the height of both its popularity and its powers. Recorded in 1959, the album combines superb performances by pianist Brubeck, alto saxophonist Desmond, drummer Joe Morrello and bassist Gene Wright. Along with “Take Five,” the album features another one of the group’s signature compositions, “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Though influenced by the West Coast-cool school, Brubeck’s greatest interest and contribution to jazz was the use of irregular meters in composition, which he did with great flair. Much of the band’s appeal is due to Desmond, whose airy tone and fluid attack often carried the band’s already strong performances to another level. Together, he and Brubeck proved one of the most potent pairings of the era

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“Time Out” is one of my favorite jazz album. I never get tired of hearing it. I also dig the painting which serves as the album cover. The superb pianist Dave Brubeck is the nominal leader of the group, frantically kicking off the opening classic track “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Drummer Joe Morello amazingly keeps perfect time during all of the tempo shifts. He particularly shines on the appropriately named tune “Pick Up Sticks.” Saxophonist Paul Desmond takes center stage on the most famous track of all, “Take Five.” This song has rightfully taken its place among the greatest instrumentals of all time. Rounding out the quartet, Eugene Wright’s bass deftly anchors the beat on the melodic “Kathy’s Waltz.” The song “Everybody’s Jumpin'” would be right at home on an album of sophisticated swing music. I’m no jazz expert who can expound on exotic time signatures, but I know what I like. I love “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet!

Biography

Dave Brubeck was one of the most active and popular musicians in both the jazz and classical worlds. With a career that spanned over six decades, his experiments in odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, polyrhythm and polytonality remain hallmarks of innovation.

Born into a musical family in Concord, California– his two older brothers were also professional musicians–he began piano lessons with his mother at age four. He was 12 when his father moved the family to a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras. Dave’s life changed dramatically. Piano lessons ended and cowboy life began. He worked with his father on the 45,000 acre cattle ranch. When he was 14, he started playing in local dance bands on weekends. When he enrolled at the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, California, his intention was to study veterinary medicine and return to the ranch. While working his way through school as a pianist in local nightclubs, the lure of jazz became irresistible and he changed his major to music. Graduating in 1942, he enlisted in the Army, and shortly thereafter married Iola Whitlock, a fellow student at Pacific. While serving in Patton’s Army in Europe, he led a racially integrated band. After his discharge from military service in 1946, he enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, California to study composition with French composer, Darius Milhaud. Milhaud encouraged him to pursue a career in jazz and to incorporate jazz elements into his compositions. This cross-genre experimentation with like-minded Milhaud students led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1947. In 1949, Brubeck with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, fellow Octet members, cut their first award-winning Dave Brubeck Trio recordings. After suffering a near fatal diving accident in 1951, Dave formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who was also a member of the Octet. The legendary Brubeck-Desmond collaboration lasted seventeen years and beyond.

The Dave Brubeck quartet’s recordings and concert appearances on college campuses in the ‘50s and early ‘60s introduced jazz to thousands of young people. The quartet’s audiences were not limited to students, however. The group played in jazz clubs in every major city and toured in package shows with such artists as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzerald, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. The Dave Brubeck Quartet repeatedly won top honors in trade magazines and critic’s and reader’s polls. In 1954 Dave Brubeck’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with a story about the jazz renaissance and Brubeck’s phenomenal ascendancy.

In 1958 the Quartet made their first of many international tours. The U.S. State Department sponsored the Quartet’s performances in Poland, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Exposure to many different cultures was reflected in the group’s repertoire that sometimes incorporated exotic elements. The 1959 recording “Time Out” experimented in time signatures beyond the usual jazz 4/4. To everyone’s surprise “Time Out” became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Take Five” (now in the Grammy Hall of Fame) began to appear on jukeboxes throughout the world.

Early in his career Brubeck wrote primarily for this Quartet, and some of those pieces, such as “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke” became part of standard jazz repertoire. His first orchestral composition, “Elementals”, written for an improvising jazz combo and symphony orchestra was premiered and recorded in 1962. Choreographed by Lar Lubovitch, “Elemental Brubeck” is currently in the repertoire of the San Francisco Ballet and several other dance companies.

Throughout his career Brubeck experimented with integrating jazz into classical forms. In 1959 his Quartet premiered and recorded his brother Howard’s “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra” with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein conducting. In 1960 he composed “Points on Jazz” for the American Ballet Theatre, and in later decades composed for and toured with the Murray Louis Dance Co. His musical theater piece “The Real Ambassadors” starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae was recorded and performed to great acclaim at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.

The “classic” Dave Brubeck Quartet (Paul Desmond, alto sax from 1951; Eugene Wright, bass from 1958; Joe Morello, drums from 1956) was dissolved December 1967. Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan joined a newly formed Dave Brubeck Trio (with Jack Six, bass and Alan Dawson, drums) the following year. This group recorded and toured the world together for seven years. In this period Brubeck also performed with three of his musical sons, Darius, Chris and Dan billed as “Two “Generations of Brubeck” frequently with Gerry Mulligan or Paul Desmond as guest artists.

In the ‘80s Brubeck led a quartet that featured clarinetist Bill Smith, a former Octet member, with his son Chris on electric bass and Randy Jones on drums. This group toured the Soviet Union in 1987 and along with former bassist, Eugene Wright, accompanied President Reagan to Moscow to perform at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in 1988. Since the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s first appearance at a State Dinner for King Hussein of Jordan during the Johnson administration, Brubeck has performed at The White House on several occasions and for many different Presidents.

Shortly after the dissolution of the “classic” Quartet, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Erich Kunzel conducting, premiered Brubeck’s oratorio,” The Light in the Wilderness” (February 1968). The following year Brubeck’s second major work “The Gates of Justice”, a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Old Testament, was also premiered by Kunzel in Cincinnati. It has since been re-recorded by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Cantor Abraham Mizrahi, tenor and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone, for the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, Russell Gloyd conducting.

Throughout his career Brubeck continued to experiment with interweaving jazz and classical music. He performed as composer-performer with most of the major orchestras in the United States and with prestigious choral groups and orchestras in Europe and America. Dave cited as some of the highlights of his career the premier of his composition “Upon This Rock” for Pope John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco and the performances of his mass “To Hope! A Celebration” in St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna and in Moscow with the Russian National Orchestra and Orloff choir.

Dave Brubeck’s compositions include a popular Christmas choral pageant “La Fiesta de la Posada”, oratorios and cantatas, ballet suites, a string quartet, chamber ensembles, pieces for solo and duo-piano, violin solos and orchestral works. His mass “To Hope! A Celebration” has been performed throughout the English speaking world, Germany, Russia and Austria and was recorded in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In 2002 the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices recorded in “Classical Brubeck” his Easter oratorio “Beloved Son”, “Pange Lingua Variations”, “The Voice of the Holy Spirit” and a composition for string orchestra, “Regret”, all under the baton of Russell Gloyd, who since 1976 has been associated with Brubeck as conductor, producer and manager. A mini-opera based on Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” was presented at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2006.

Throughout his long career Dave Brubeck received national and international honors, including the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He held numerous honorary doctorates from American, Canadian, English and German universities, including an honorary degree in Sacred Theology from Fribourg University, Switzerland. Recently, Brubeck received the Distinguished Arts Award from the Ford Honors program of the University of Michigan and in 2006 received from Notre Dame their highest honor, the Laetare Medal. He was a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, and was presented with the Sanford Medal by the Yale School of Music

In the year 2000 the National Endowment for the Arts declared Dave Brubeck a Jazz Master. He was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2007 he received a Living Legacy Jazz Award from Kennedy Center and the Arison Award from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.

His international honors include Austria’s highest award for the Arts, a citation from the French government, and the Bocconi Medal from Italy. The London Symphony Orchestra, acknowledging their long association, presented him with their prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

The most recent honor from his alma mater, the University of the Pacific, is the President’s Medal of Achievement presented by Donald V. De Rosa. He served as chairman of The Brubeck Institute that the University of the Pacific established in his honor.

Dave Brubeck’s most recent recording is a highly praised solo piano album “Indian Summer” that was named 2007 Album of the Year by Douglas Lytle, of blomberg.com.

Dave Brubeck passed away on Wednesday, December 5th, one day short of his 92nd birthday.