Dave Brubeck - piano; Paul Desmond - alto sax; Eugene Wright - bass; Joe Morello - drums
While on tour in Mexico in May 1967, the Dave Brubeck Quartet collaborated with some local musicians at the country's first jazz festival. Some of the material from that live recording (released on July 17, that year as Bravo! Brubeck!) was premiered at the 1967 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival. Following a swinging, highly interpretive take on W.C. Handy's classic "St. Louis Blues," featuring a dynamic drum solo by Morello, Brubeck and his crew put their stamp on two traditional Mexican numbers, the gentle and melodic "La Paloma Azul" and a lively, swinging interpretation of "Cielito Lindo," both featuring the inimitable Desmond alto sax sound that was once described as "the sound of a dry martini." Their set includes an abbreviated rendition of Paul Desmond's cool 5/4 vehicle, "Take Five" (sans Morello drum solo) and they close with Brubeck's jaunty midtempo swinger, "Win a Few, Lose a Few."
This set also marks the last performance of the classic quartet at Newport. Shortly after this showcase, Brubeck disbanded that particular group (which Willis Connover once referred to as "The Gestalt Four") and began playing with a new quartet featuring baritone sax ace Gerry Mulligan, bassist Jack Six and drummer Alan Dawson. But this July 3rd performance at George Wein's annual clambake on Narragansett Bay was a last hurrah for Mssrs. Brubeck, Desmond, Wright and Morello. And the adoring audience drank it all in, cheering loudly as the set concluded.
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 classic Brubeck quartet was 1966's Anything Goes, a collection of Cole Porter songs.
Brubeck composed more extended orchestral and choral works through the '70s while continuing to make small group appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival, sometimes with a group comprised of this three sons Darius on keyboards, Dan on drums, and Chris on electric bass or bass trombone. He kept this Two Generations of Brubeck group together until 1978. He continued to write orchestral works and ballet scores through the '80s and '90s while also making appearances and recordings with smaller jazz groups. In 1994, Brubeck was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. In 2006, at the 49th Monterey Jazz Festival, Brubeck 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. Brubeck continued to play and tour up to his final days. The American music legend died on December 5, 2012, just one day short of his 92nd birthday. - Bill Milkowski