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Brandenburg Gate: Revisited

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Album Review

Four of the five selections on Brandenburg Gate: Revisited (1963) are new interpretations of Dave Brubeck (piano) classics scored by the pianist's older sibling, Howard Brubeck, who is likewise the author of the "G Flat Theme," which is offered here for the first time. By the time of this 1963 platter, the perpetually touring Dave Brubeck Quartet had played behind a few of the North America's finest ensembles — commencing with a personal invitation extended by Robert Shaw and the San Diego Symphony in 1956. In fact, these expanded arrangements were actually done live before they were recorded in the studio. A similar fate befell material from Brubeck Plays Bernstein Plays Brubeck (1960), which was the Quartet's earlier orchestral collaboration. "Brandenburg Gate" has been significantly expanded from the version heard on Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958). The selection has developed into a side-long suite that includes substantial emotive counterpoint connecting the moody and contemplative strings and the swinging melodic contributions of Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), and Joe Morello (drums). The subtle tension and liberation that exists between the two arguably disparate aggregates prevent either from overpowering the other. Likewise, spirited leads and improvisations from Brubeck and Desmond keep the elaborate piece agile and firmly rooted in jazz. "Summer Song" is given a stately update, reflecting the easygoing nature of the Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956) reading. Desmond once again reels off impressive lines that never detract from the tastefully understated string augmentation. The affective "In Your Own Sweet Way" has evolved from the piano solo that initially graced Brubeck Plays Brubeck (1956). The accompaniment is pronounced as it wafts beneath Brubeck's spontaneous chord progressions and nimbly executed keyboarding. As previously mentioned, "G Flat Theme" is the only tune debuted on Brandenburg Gate: Revisited. What begins as dark and melancholy dissipates into a mid-tempo groove that drives both Brubeck and Desmond into some very interesting spaces as they quickly adapt their sound to the slightly noir, but highly memorable chorus. "Kathy's Waltz" benefits from a more thorough examination, as compared to the Time Out (1959) rendering. There is a stately air present on this interpretation that remains conspicuously discreet on the more familiar outing. On the whole, of all the reworkings this one seems to be the most rewarding, especially as Desmond is backed with the lush full-bodied orchestra.

Biography

Born: December 6, 1920 in Concord, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the 1950s and '60s, few American jazz artists were as influential, and fewer still were as popular, as Dave Brubeck. At a time when the cooler sounds of West Coast jazz began to dominate the public face of the music, Brubeck proved there was an audience for the style far beyond the confines of the in-crowd, and with his emphasis on unusual time signatures and adventurous tonalities, Brubeck showed that ambitious and challenging music could still be accessible. And as rock & roll began to dominate...
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