Dave Brubeck ‘Ain’t misbehavin” 2CD (Union Square) 4/5

The death of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck in December 2012 at the age of ninety-two was a great loss to the world of jazz and to music in general. His towering contribution spans some seven decades and no anthology can ever claim to capture the entirety of such a staggeringly fruitful and creative career. That said, Union Square go beyond the obvious to provide a well thought out overview of the Columbia years, in studio and live formats, with the odd caveat. It was while at Columbia that the classic quartet including the fabulous alto saxophone playing of Paul Desmond, the surefire bass of Eugene Wright and the dynamic polyrhythms of Joe Morello reached full maturity and from an early example of the quartet in full bloom, ‘Brubeck Time’ in 1954, the standard ‘A fine romance’ and the beautiful Brubeck composed ballad ‘Audrey’ are taken. This was already a band in complete control. Of course the seminal ‘Time Out album could not be excluded and ‘Take Five’ is arguably the most instantly recognisable piece in jazz history alongside ‘So what’ and a few other worthy candidates. It should not be forgotten that at the time this most unusual of time signatures (in 5/4 time) was positively frowned upon by the head of Columbia jazz and was seen as something of a risk. The gamble paid off handsomely and ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ is almost as compelling and has been covered countless times with vocal version by Al Jarreau and French jazzer Claude Nougaro especially memorable. The follow up album ‘Time Further Out’ was no mere re-hashing of the first and ‘It’s a raggy waltz’ and ‘Unsquare dance’ both contained in this compilation are fine examples of Brubeck’s genius for finding instantly catchy melodies from then unorthodox time scores. Dave Brubeck loved reworking other famous pieces from film and the American songbook and on ‘Dave digs Disney’ scored another winner of an album with ‘Someday my prince will come’ and ‘Heigh-ho’ included here. Miles Davis would cover the former and it has become a staple of the jazz repertoire ever since. From the Columbia period, Brubeck’s most adventurous excursions were his jazz impressions of places the quartet visited on tour and some of these are found in the present anthology. From ‘Jazz Impressions of Eurasia’ the lengthy ‘Brandenburg Gate’ is another Brubeck classic and he has performed this on countless occasions including with a symphony orchestra. It is a pity that no numbers from ‘Jazz Impressions of Japan’, on a par with Horace Silver’s ‘Tokyo Blues’ are included with ‘Koto song’ being a particular favourite. Likewise ‘Jazz Impressions of USA’ featured ‘Summer song’ that would have been a worthy inclusion. Much under-estimated is Brubeck’s solo work and here a fine rendition of ‘The Duke’ and ‘In your own sweet way’ are illustrations of his essentially blues-inflected style. For those wishing to hear more of this, they should seek out ‘Brubeck plays Brubeck’. One could quibble about the lack of any interpretations from the quartet’s recording of ‘West Side Story’ or the omission of ‘Castilian Blues’, or even Brubeck’s take on the bossa nova, or his live recordings including a glorious tour of Mexico. There are numerous candidates for inclusion here and it would require an entire box set to do full justice and that is just for the decade or so that the quartet were together. A lengthy inner sleeve article from Mojo writer Chris Ingham places Brubeck in a wider historical context. Every house should have at least one or two Dave Brubeck albums and if you are searching to find where to start off, this is as good a place as any and at a bargain price too. Tim Stenhouse

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