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Dave Brubeck - Indian Summer Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 September 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8
sound:    8
released:    2007
label:    Telarc
reviewer:    Scott Yanow

ImageEven at the age of 86, Dave Brubeck is a powerful musician who continually stretches himself. He utilized polytonality (playing in two or more keys at once) and unusual time signatures as early as the late 1940s, predating nearly everyone in jazz. He was also very early in using polyrhythms (two or more simultaneous rhythms). His chord voicings differed from his contemporaries and, although often grouped with West Coast cool jazz, he did not sound like any of the other pianists.

Despite his innovations and uniqueness, Brubeck has also been one of the most popular jazz musicians ever since his quartet caught on big in the mid-1950s. He is one of the very few (along with George Shearing, Oscar Peterson and the late Erroll Garner) who has managed to retain his fame for decades simply by being himself, without watering down his music.

While the Dave Brubeck Quartet with altoist Paul Desmond was a classic group, that unit broke up 40 years ago. Brubeck has continually led other quartets ever since, constantly traveling the world and performing virtually everywhere. His life has been a whirlwind of activities with a nonstop flow of writing, rehearsing, recording sessions, concerts, traveling, interviews and dreams being fulfilled while new ones are born.
Indian Summer is one Dave Brubeck’s infrequent solo piano sessions. While his solos with his quartet can often be quite fiery and intense (although leavened by his wit), his solo outings tend to be reflective, wistful and sometimes nostalgic. Indian Summer begins with a very touching version of “You’ll Never Know” that is almost heartbreaking. As on most of these performances, Brubeck keeps the melody close by, and while the interpretation becomes more involved as the piece progresses, it does not lose the original mood.

The program mostly features vintage swing era standards along with four originals. The renditions of Dave and Iola Brubeck’s classic “Summer Song,” “Georgia on My Mind” (which utilizes a light stride), “Sweet Lorraine” and Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You” are particularly charming and memorable. Brubeck brings out the beauty of the melodies while still sounding distinctive; “This Love of Mine” is typical of his approach. Brubeck caresses its theme before re-harmonizing the song, becomes a bit passionate in displaying his emotions, and then ends up sounding very tender.

Although the low volume and unhurried pace of the solos may lead some casual listeners to relegate this CD to background music, a close listen at a reasonably loud volume will reveal a great deal of creativity, melodic and harmonic invention, and heartfelt emotions.

Dave Brubeck’s piano sounds luscious throughout this recital. One can hear every echo and overtone, along with subtleties that might have been lost in a concert performance. Indian Summer is beautiful music that is beautifully recorded.

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