Dave Brubeck - piano
Gerry Mulligan - baritone sax
Jack Six - bass
Alan Dawson - drums
In 1967, Dave Brubeck broke up his famous quartet (alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, drummer Joe Morello) and the following year formed his New Quartet with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, bassist Jack Six, and drummer Alan Dawson. They recorded two albums in 1968 (Compadres and Blues Roots) and the following year appeared at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival.
This Saturday evening engagement on July 5th found Brubeck, Mulligan and the regal rhythm tandem of bassist Six and drummer Dawson to be truly on one accord in a stellar performance that wowed the Newport faithful at Freebody Park. They open with a soulful loping blues which eventually morphs into the Duke Ellington staple, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" (a tune that Brubeck had also played with his quartet at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, documented on a live Columbia recording). From the outset, Mulligan is in a laidback mood on top of Dawson's loose, interactive swing pulse. Brubeck comps forcefully behind Mulligan's solo before launching into a harmonically provocative solo of his own that introduces some edgier elements into the proceedings (his version of Cecil Taylor by way of Mary Lou Williams) while still remaining true to the spirit of Ellingtonia. Six also turns in a potent bass solo on this spirited opener.
They follow with a mellow rendition of the Johnny Green-Edward Heyman standard "Out of Nowhere," a tune introduced in 1931 by Bing Crosby and subsequently covered by such jazz stars as saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and guitarist Django Reinhardt, alto saxophonists Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt, vocalists Lena Horne and Joe Williams. Next up is requiem-like "Blessed Are the Poor (The Sermon on the Mount,)" a mournful piece carried by Mulligan's resonant baritone horn. (The following year, Brubeck's new quartet with Mulligan, Six, and Dawson would record this spiritual number with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra). Mulligan's performance is especially moving while Brubeck again pushes the envelope on his solo, treading into the Cecil Taylor camp with his spiky chordal clusters and sparkling, dissonant runs on the keyboard. And they close their set with the propulsive 6/8 number, "Indian Song," which highlights Dawson on a brilliant extended drum solo.
In 1970, this edition of the Brubeck quartet would release Elementals for Jazzcombo, Orchestra and Baritone Solo and The Dave Brubeck Trio with Gerry Mulligan & the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, both on Decca, and Live at the Berlin Philharmonic on Columbia. That unit would stay together through 1972, touring internationally and recording regularly. Then in 1973, Brubeck would form his Two Generations of Brubeck band with sons Chris and Darius, which he would keep together until 1978.
A legendary, revered figure in jazz, pianist-composer Dave Brubeck has made frequent appearances over the past 55 years at the Newport Jazz Festival. His compositions like "In Your Own Sweet Way," "The Duke," and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" have become standards in jazz repertoire and he will be forever associated with the tune "Take Five," composed by his longtime right-hand man and alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond.
Born on December 6, 1920 in Concord, California, Brubeck's father was a cattle rancher and his mother, who had dreams of becoming a concert pianist, taught piano to students in her home for extra money. Early on, he took lessons with his mother and later studied music at the College of the Pacific from 1938 to 1942. After graduating, he was drafted into General Patton's Third Army and led a service band overseas. While serving in the Army, he met Paul Desmond in 1944. After four years in the Army, he returned to California and continued his musical education at Mills College, where he studied with the French composer and teacher Darius Milhaud, who sparked his interest in fugues, counterpoint and polytonality. Following his studies under Milhaud, Brubeck helped to establish Fantasy Records out of Berkeley, California. His first recording for the label, in 1949, was with an octet comprised of fellow students from Mills College and is full of complex time signatures and polytonality. He subsequently formed a working trio with drummer-vibraphonist Cal Tjader and bassist Ron Crotty, which gained popularity around the Bay Area.
By 1951, Brubeck was persuaded by altoist Paul Desmond to make the trio a quartet, and a sound was born. Together they took up a long residency at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub with drummer Lloyd Davis and bassist Crotty and gained great popularity touring college campuses. Their string of successful recordings—1953's Jazz at Oberlin and Jazz at the College of the Pacific along with the Brubeck Quartet's 1954 Columbia debut, Jazz Goes to College, led to the pianist-composer being featured on the cover of Time magazine on November 8, 1954, the second jazz musician to be so honored (the first was Louis Armstrong, who appeared on the cover on February 21, 1949). The lineup for the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet was finally cemented when drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright joined in 1955, subsequently appearing on such essential recordings as 1959's ground-breaking, platinum-selling Time Out, 1961's Time Further Out, 1962's Time in Outer Space (dedicated to Apollo astronaut John Glenn) and 1964's Time Change. The final studio album for Columbia by the Brubeck/Desmond/Wright/Morello quartet was 1966's Anything Goes, a collection of Cole Porter songs.
Brubeck wrote orchestral works and ballet scores through the '70s, '80s, and '90s while also making appearances and recordings with smaller jazz groups. In 1994, he was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. In 2006, at the 49th Monterey Jazz Festival, he debuted his commissioned work, Cannery Row Suite, a jazz opera based on John Steinbeck's novel about Monterey's roots as a sardine fishing and packing town.
Today, in his 90s, Brubeck is still playing vigorously swinging jazz (as evidenced by his recent appearance at the 2010 Newport Jazz Festival). Truly, he is one for the ages. (Milkowski)