Classical Brubeck

COMPOSERS: Dave Brubeck
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Classical Brubeck
PERFORMER: Dave Brubeck


Sadly, truly successful classical/ jazz crossbreeding is largely wishful thinking. Critics point vaguely in the direction of Stravinsky and Constant Lambert while fervently hoping they won’t be asked to be more specific. Conductors and opera divas slumming it don’t count, either, their efforts adding nothing to either tradition (although André Previn, with a genuine grounding in both musics, is the most honourable of exceptions).

Unfortunately, things look no better from the other direction, either. Unwieldy concerto-type works for jazz soloist and orchestra, such as Ornette Coleman’s Skies of America, are generally noble failures, while the synthesis marked by the so-called Third Stream was so obviously jazz in structural terms that no one was fooled for a moment.

The true avant-gardists who are informed by African-American music, such as Matthew Shipp, may well have found a way forward, but it’s by way of a circuitous route and it’ll be a while before many mainstream listeners follow them down their chosen road. In the meantime, for any CD buyer primarily interested in classical music but with an abiding enthusiasm for jazz, there are genuine links to be discovered and rather more subtle ways of appealing to both sets of sensibilities.

Veteran pianist DAVE BRUBECK’s reputation gives him a head start, and the double CD Classical Brubeck, featuring his quartet with the LSO, two choirs and baritone soloist (Alan Opie), is by no means his first incursion into this territory.


Brubeck’s four compositions here really are as good as symphonic jazz is likely to get, but what’s intriguing is the way in which much of the material draws upon the last historical instance of the two musics sharing some natural common ground: African-American religious music and the church music tradition from which the former was partly derived.