Dave Brubeck Quartet ‘Countdown’/’Time in Outer Space’ (American Jazz Classics) 5/5

Dave-Brubeck-QuartetWhile, perhaps, not as feted as other albums from the same era, make no mistake about it, this is unquestionably the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the peak of their powers with ‘Countdown’ one of the most underrated albums of their classic period. A sumptuous rendition of ‘Someday my prince will come’ compares most favourably with Miles’ around the same time while seldom had the Spanish tinge been captured so dramatically by non-Spaniards as on both ‘Castilian Blues’ and the equally fine ‘Castilian Drums’. These two compositions provide a thrilling backdrop to the rest of the album which contains stunning jazz waltzes such as ‘Phillis Waltz’ and ‘Waltz Limp’, and Brubeck would return to Latin themes on the mid-1960s live recording the excellent ‘Bravo Brubeck’ in 1967. The second album continues the exploration in unusual time signatures that made the earlier albums so memorable and is consistently strong throughout. An additional forty minutes of bonus material makes for a terrific bargain on one CD and thirty-five minutes of this is an unreleased concert from New York in 1961 with some of the classics revisited and these include the evergreens ‘Take Five’ and ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ as well as a lovely take on Ellington’s ‘Take the A-Train’. Lengthy original back sleeve notes by Brubeck himself are reprinted in full and are highly informative. They reveal a deeply reflective and creative musician and human being.

Tim Stenhouse