Dave Brubeck - piano; Paul Desmond - alto sax; Darius Brubeck - Fender Rhodes electric piano; Chris Brubeck -trombone, bass; Dan Brubeck - drums; Peter "Madcat" Ruth - harmonica; Jerry Bergonzi - tenor sax; Perry Robinson - clarinet
After disbanding his classic quartet (with alto sax great Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello) in 1967, pianist-composer Dave Brubeck went on to form an adventurous new quartet with noted baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, bassist Jack Six and drummer Alan Dawson. This unit stayed together until 1972. The following year, the forward-thinking Brubeck formed his Two Generations of Brubeck band with his Woodstock generation sons Chris, Darius and Dan. They released their eponymous debut on Atlantic in 1973 and followed up with 1974's Brother, the Great Spirit Made Us All. They performed material from both albums at this July 2, 1975 appearance at Carnegie Hall for the Newport Jazz Festival in New York.
The Brubecks open with a driving rendition of "Unsquare Dance," a 7/8 number that originally appeared on 1961's Time Further Out. Darius, on Fender Rhodes electric piano, exchanges some sparkling statements with father Dave on piano while brothers Dan and Chris hold down the churning groove. Dan also contributes an extended drum solo here. The patriarch next jumps on the sprightly waltz "Someday My Prince Will Come," originally written for the 1937 Walt Disney animated movie Snow White and reconfigured as a jazz waltz by Brubeck on 1957's Dave Digs Disney. With Dan Brubeck underscoring the proceedings with some briskly swinging brushwork, Dave is featured on a forceful solo that pushes the envelope both rhythmically and harmonically.
"Brandenburg Gate," from Two Generations of Brubeck, is an elegant exercise in counterpoint with Brubeck and longtime partner Desmond weaving lyrical lines in and out of each other. "It's a Raggy Waltz" is a funky, off-kilter dance number that originally appeared on 1961's Time Further Out and was later reconfigured on 1973's Brother, the Great Spirit Made Us All. Desmond and Brubeck unite for a jaunty duet on "These Foolish Things" and a poignant rendition of "For All We Know." Desmond's signature dry martini alto sound is brilliantly showcased here. The full band reunites for a rousing rendition of Brubeck's most famous tune, "Take Five," with Dan offering a decidedly more energetic drum solo than Joe Morello's famous drum solo from the 1959 original.
Brubeck's blues-drenched piano intro leads into an extended meditation on the blues that Desmond, Darius, Dan and Chris expound on with individual solos. They close out their set with the tricky 9/8 vehicle "Blue Rondo a la Turk," another famous number introduced by Brubeck's classic quartet on 1959's Time Out. This "Rondo" is an entirely different take, however. It kicks off with Darius' Fender Rhodes intro and peaks with a smoking blues harmonica solo by Peter "Madcat" Ruth, along with a trombone solo from Chris Brubeck. Following an extended applause from the Carnegie crowd, they encore with the Swing-era romp "Christopher Columbus," a hit for Fletcher Henderson's big band in 1936, which features crowd pleasing solos by harmonica ace Ruth, clarinetist Robinson, tenor saxophonist Bergonzi, Desmond (quoting everything from Glenn Miller's "Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam)" to Tadd Dameron's "Hot House") and trombonist Chris Brubeck.
A legendary, revered figure in jazz, Dave Brubeck appeared as emcee at the very first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and performed at several George Wein clambakes in subsequent years. His compositions like "In Your Own Sweet Way," "The Duke" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" have become standards in jazz repertoire. 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, Brubeck 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. In 2011, Columbia Records released Their Last Time Out, a document of the classic quartet's final live appearance together, on December 26, 1967.
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 from 1973 until 1978. Brubeck 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, he 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. Today, at age 91, Brubeck is still playing vigorously swinging jazz (as evidenced by his recent appearance at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival). Truly, he is one for the ages. (Bill Milkowski)