REVIEW: ‘Time OutTakes’ – The Dave Brubeck Quartet

INDELIBLY STAMPED on many a heart, 1959’s Time Out – followed by Time Further Out in 1961 – propelled pianist Dave Brubeck’s quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, double bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello into jazz and pop immortality, helped by the still-ubiquitous Take Five. It became the first jazz album to sell a million copies.

Previously-unreleased recordings from the four sessions in the summer of 1959 have now been issued in Time OutTakes – the first output on the family’s Brubeck Editions imprint. Revelatory nuances are heard in alternative takes of five of the original album’s seven tracks, alongside two recently discovered numbers, plus fascinating audio insights into conversations between the artists and their studio engineers. As son Darius Brubeck explains, “Naturally, the takes chosen for release… were the most polished performances of this newly composed music. Sixty years later these ‘heads’ are familiar and this time around we can focus on the great improvisations that were held back because of little mistakes in the pre-composed sections”.

The quartet’s celebrated brand of American ‘West Coast cool’, an important waymarker in jazz ancestry, flings open the door on this archive with Blue Rondo à la Turk (whose 9/8 metre Brubeck famously heard from Turkish street musicians, a year earlier). Here, Paul Desmond’s swinging improvisations feel bluesier, less restrained; and the piano explorations are more angular, so much so that the album’s much-stated polyrhythmic experimentalism – initially unnerving, in a commercial sense, for label Columbia – is brought into sharper relief, including a hard-hitting conclusion. An elegant stride-piano difference to the opening of Strange Meadowlark (wait for the ‘attempts’ in the later banter!) is taken up by Desmond’s signature softness. How his improvisational angle changes things; and Brubeck and his rhythm section are jauntier and less inhibited, too (maybe with a chromatic-piano whiff of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Bali Hai’ at the close).

Take Five another way (it took many attempts to land on the final hit recording) turns out to be pacier, perhaps even hurried to our ears. The 5/4 piano figure obviously sets the groove, but it’s the toms of Morello (whose soundcheck playfulness gave birth to the idea) that create the ‘jam’, particularly when he weighs in with a seemingly more fervent drum solo than was first published; and Desmond is as unflappable as ever. Maybe Three To Get Ready is more akin to expectation, though there’s a perceptible ‘wink in the eye’ from the four – and its breezy disposition is embellished anew, Brubeck taking wonderful liberties with his rubato. Rounding off the Time Out tunes is Cathy’s Waltz, the title corrected from the original’s mistakenly-printed ‘Kathy’, for its then five-year-old dedicatee-in-a-tutu, Brubeck’s daughter. Still with an ascending phrase that feels like the inspiration for Lennon & McCartney’s ‘All My Loving’ of 1963, it whirls and skips to Desmond’s free-spiritedness.

Interestingly, Pick Up Sticks and Everybody’s Jumpin’ were captured in single takes at the sessions, hence no alternatives in this release. Instead, we hear fast-swinging I‘m in a Dancing Mood, whose percussive bossa episodes are evocative of the period; and Watusi Jam – a spontaneous piano trio number found unmarked on the session tapes – which is initiated by Wright’s bass groove, again featuring Morello. The frisson of collaborative adventure in this is palpable. Did they know, then, they were onto something?

Dave Brubeck passed away in 2012, just a day short of his 92nd birthday. After all these years, and admittedly with a good measure of nostalgia, to hear those Time Out tracks ‘disrupted’ by ’new’ improvisations and detail sends an involuntary tingle down the spine. So do the final track’s fascinating few minutes of back-and-forth quips (Brubeck: “Man, I can’t play it that good again… See, what’d’I tell you?… I didn’t even like that!”). So particularly for fans, this turning back of the clock to the 1959 studio – with interesting CD-booklet insights from the family, both on the pieces and the players’ characters – feels pretty special.

Released on 4 December 2020, to mark the centenary of the great man’s birth, Time OutTakes is available at Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

 

Dave Brubeck piano
Paul Desmond alto saxophone
Eugene Wright double bass
Joe Morello drums

davebrubeck.com

Brubeck Editions – BECD20200901 (2020)

REVIEW: ‘Yardbird Suite’ – Alexey Kruglov & Krugly Band

HAVING DISCOVERED the music of genial Russian alto saxophonist Alexey Kruglov, back in 2014, through his ‘Duo Art’ album Moscow with pianist Joachim Kühn, I’ve come to anticipate three, key aspects with each subsequent release.

Firstly, his projects often have a specific theme, such as 2015’s The Mighty Five, a wildly unique jazz celebration of native classical masters including Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov; and then 2020 release Tchaikovsky, marking 180 years since the composer’s birth. Secondly, he displays a wonderfully outrageous sense of experimentation, his improvisations sometimes squawked on reed only or blasted out simultaneously on two or more saxes (Roland Kirk style). Finally, given his ‘avant garde’ tag… expect the unexpected!

As with the likes of Gilad Atzmon or Marius Neset, Kruglov’s techniques eschew limits, with a creative flow almost persuading that his instruments are simply part of his physical being. For latest release Yardbird Suite, together with his Krugly Band of Artem Tretyakov (piano), Roman Plotnikov (double bass) and Pavel Timofeev (drums, percussion), the saxophonist focuses on this year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Charlie Parker – one of his earliest influences as a player. An album described as a suite itself, the performance notes reveal how the eight interpretations have a direct connection with both Stravinsky and John Coltrane. And, boy, how these bebop arrangements bop!

‘Bird’, himself, could fly like the wind – and Kruglov’s present-day reimagining of Anthropology is similarly scintillating, including a couple of audacious, sauntering episodes within. Usually swinging, Now’s the Time surprises with its graceful waltz, while combined Scrapple from the Apple and Ornithology emphasize the quartet’s co-ordination in all manner of tempo/mood changes. Kruglov stamps incredible, bluesy individuality on Parker’s Mood, his dual, screeching altos certainly amongst the album highlights; and familiar, shuffling calypso My Little Suede Shoes is transformed into a jaunty stomp, Kruglov’s improvisations breathlessly traversing a capricious, quickening pace set and expanded on by his colleagues.

An unexpected balladic refashioning of Yardbird Suite is completed by the leader’s characteristic, reed-popping explorations; and Segment (sprightly when Parker and Miles Davis were upfront) takes on an shadowy, malleted, minor-key guise with shimmering Latin-piano overtones. Finally, classic bopper Confirmation enjoys its exuberant walking-bass moment in a band showcase to prove how mid-forties jazz, in our time, still gleams.

In our conversations, over the years, Alexey Kruglov’s artistic enthusiasm and zest for life have remained inspiring – and that’s sparklingly communicated, with intentional live-in-studio feel, throughout Yardbird Suite. Parker would surely approve!

Released on 28 August 2020 and available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp, and also at Fancy Music and Apple Music.

Video: dual-alto brilliance in Parker’s Mood.

 

Alexey Kruglov alto saxophones
Artem Tretyakov piano
Roman Plotnikov double bass
Pavel Timofeev drums, percussion

Fancy Music (2020)

REVIEW: ‘Quietly There’ – Allison Neale

A RELEASE to make the heart leap, alto saxophonist Allison Neale’s Quietly There summons so many early jazz memories, especially the soft, balmy tone of Paul Desmond and the mellifluous (tenor) phrasing of Stan Getz.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 11 September 2020 and available from Proper Music, Amazon, Apple Music.

 

Allison Neale alto saxophone
Peter Bernstein electric guitar
Dave Green double bass
Steve Brown drums

allisonneale.com

Ubuntu Music – UBU0062 (2020)

REVIEW: ‘Tributes’ – Marius Neset

IT’S ALMOST TEN YEARS since Marius Neset’s ‘Golden Xplosion’ onto the European jazz scene with his debut album of that name, on the Edition Records label. Since then, this master of remarkable saxophonic technique has forged a prolific career, recording an impressive series of albums (most of them reviewed at this site). Neset describes latest ACT Music release, Tributes, as marking “a new phase”…

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 25 September 2020 and available from ACT Music.

 

Marius Neset tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, compositions/arrangements

DANISH RADIO BIG BAND, conducted by Miho Hazama
Erik Eilertsen trumpet
Lars Vissing trumpet
Thomas Kjærgaard trumpet
Gerard Presencer trumpet (solo on Children’s Day Part 2)
Mads la Cour trumpet (solo on Leaving The Dock)
Peter Fuglsang alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet
Nicolai Schultz alto saxophone, flute
Hans Ulrik tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet (solo on Tribute)
Frederick Menzies tenor saxophone, clarinet (solo on Children’s Day Part 1)
Anders Gaardmand baritone saxophone (solo on Children’s Day Part 1)
Peter Dahlgren trombone (solo on Bicycle Town Part 1)
Vincent Nilsson trombone
Kevin Christensen trombone
Annette Saxe bass trombone
Jakob Munck Mortensen bass trombone, tuba
Per Gade guitar (solo on Children’s Day Part 1)
Henrik Gunde piano (solo on Leaving The Dock)
Kaspar Vadsholt double bass, electric bass
Søren Frost drums

mariusneset.info

ACT Music – ACT 9051-2 (2020)

REVIEW: ‘The Fire Still Burns’ – Alan Braufman

THE RAW ENERGY across this quintet/sextet recording is on another level!

When the promo informed that it’s Brooklyn-born saxophonist and flautist Alan Braufman’s first album recording for 45 years – since Valley of Search, his 1975 debut with pianist Cooper-Moore – The Fire Still Burns just demanded to be heard… and it doesn’t disappoint. A man with a jazz story or five (seeing Sun Ra and Coltrane in the 1960s, playing in Carla Bley’s band, etc.), his curious blend of original, blithe, accessible tunes and fiery free jazz is driven with gusto, throughout, by drummer Andrew Drury, while the approach of Braufman and the rest of his team is similarly impassioned.

Listen to the segued contrast between sunshiny, flute-ornamented Morning Bazaar and screeching, uproarious No Floor No Ceiling to understand the range. Dual-horn strength and the leader’s own, blistering soloing matches Cooper-Moore’s strong piano foundation in Home, while the romantic soulfulness of Alone Again (easily imaginable with a lyric) still maintains an appealing hard edge, as does the impressively hard-blown title track with Braufman, again, giving it everything on sax. The township-style prelude to City Nights – with fabulously solid, shuffling groove – heralds neat arco-bass harmonics from Ken Filiano as the whole, unfolding climax becomes irresistible (and I could happily enjoy another couple of minutes of Michael Wimberly’s lively, closing percussion!). That’s the vibe to discover.

With eight tracks averaging around four and a half minutes each, it would be easy to feel short-changed on album length; but the breathless invention of it all – melodic or wildly improvised – dispels that notion, delivering huge satisfaction.

Released on 28 August 2020 in LP, CD and digital formats at Bandcamp (view the trailer).

 

Alan Braufman alto saxophone, flute
Cooper-Moore piano
James Brandon Lewis tenor saxophone
Ken Filiano bass
Andrew Drury drums
with
Michael Wimberly percussion (tracks 2 & 8)

alanbraufman.com

(2020)

REVIEW: ‘Another Kind of Soul’ – Tony Kofi

HEART, SOUL and blazing musicality – the essence of the art of saxophonist Tony Kofi – take centre stage in this new, live recording with his quintet of trumpeter Andy Davies, pianist Alex Webb, bassist Andrew Cleyndert and drummer Alfonso Vitale.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 24 April 2020, in vinyl and digital formats only – available from Proper Music and these links.

 

Tony Kofi alto saxophone
Andy Davies trumpet
Alex Webb piano
Andrew Cleyndert double bass
Alfonso Vitale drums

tonykofimusic.com

The Last Music Company – LMLP217 (2020)