Dave Brubeck: Brubeck Plays Brubeck

COMPOSERS: Dave Brubeck
LABELS: Columbia Legacy
WORKS: Brubeck Plays Brubeck
PERFORMER: Dave Brubeck (p)
CATALOGUE NO: CK 65722
Brubeck enjoyed unprecedented popularity in the Fifties and Sixties, the sure way for anyone to get written out of the pages of jazz history. When he made it on to the cover of Time magazine in November 1954, it signalled he had made it in terms of the huge audiences he attracted, but it was the end of the line as far as the jazz purists were concerned; they preferred their heroes to practise their art in a respectable degree of penury.

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Brubeck succeeded on two levels. Where jazz once was a joyful music anyone could understand, in the Forties it had become a tortured brain-puzzle understood only by the very hip. Brubeck unlocked this puzzle by giving enough space for meditation to the cool sound of Desmond’s alto saxophone, while simultaneously retaining some of jazz’s mystery with his wacky keyboard pounding that suggested a kind of madness. This nice-guy-nasty-guy trick worked and these impressive albums point to a highly original group spearheaded by two unique improvisers. Desmond owed nothing to the omnipresent influence of Charlie Parker: he was economical, very melodic and oh-so-cool.

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Brubeck too eschewed the prevailing bebop influences. His solos were polychordal, polyrhythmical and often very melodic. In fact, Desmond and Brubeck were modern jazz musicians who were not bebop musicians. It was a paradox that the critics still don’t quite understand today. Stuart Nicholson