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Jazz Impressions of Japan

The Dave Brubeck Quartet

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Album Review

Thirteen years into their tenure, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was still able to mine the creative vein for new means of expression. Despite the hits and popularity on college campuses, or perhaps because of it, Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello composed a restless band with a distinctive sound. These eight tracks, all based on a tour of Japan the year before, were, in a sense, Brubeck fulfilling a dictum from his teacher, the French composer Darius Milhaud, who exhorted him to "travel the world and keep your ears open." The sketches Brubeck and Desmond created all invoke the East, particularly the folk melodies of Japan directly, while still managing to use the Debussian impressionistic approach to jazz that kept them riding the charts and creating a body of music that, while playing into the exotica craze of the moment, was still jazz composed and played with integrity. The gorgeous modal blues that uses Eastern scale whole tones with Western harmonic notions — chromatically — that comprise the melody and solo frameworks for Desmond in "Fujiyama" are a beautiful contrast to the relatively straight-ahead ballad style featured on "Zen Is When," with its 4/4 time sling rhythm and simple melody — extrapolated by Brubeck in purely Japanese whole tone scale on the harmony. Also, the shimmer and whisper of "The City Is Crying," where Desmond's solo is one of the most beautiful of his career, using arpeggios as half tones to reach down into the middle of his horn's register and play harmonically a counterpoint that is as painterly as it is poignant. On "Osaka Blues," Brubeck once again reaches for an oriental scale to play a modal blues à la Miles Davis with Wynton Kelly; Desmond responds by playing straight post-bop Bluesology with even a squeak or two in his solo. In all, Jazz Impressions of Japan is one of the great forgotten Brubeck records. Its sweetness is tempered with musical adventure and the improvisational experience only a band that had been together 13 years could provide. It's truly wonderful.

Customer Reviews

Best of the Impressions

This 1964 album is the third of four so-titled "Impressions" albums recorded by the Brubeck Quartet, although albums like Gone With The Wind, Southern Scene, and Bravo! Brubeck! could easily fall under this title. This one stands apart from the others, however, because the influences of Japanese music lead the improvisers, as well as Brubeck's pen, to create some of the most beautiful and evocative music in the "classic" Quartet's 10-year output. "Koto Song" is the only title that lived on after this album, memorably recorded elsewhere; this first version is a haunting, lovely miniature. Also deserving of attention as compositions are "Rising Sun" and "The City is Crying." In addition, the straight-ahead swing of "Tokyo Traffic" leads Brubeck to a highly linear solo, proving he did not always resort to block chords to build his solos. One of the best of the studio recordings on Columbia.

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...
Full Bio

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