Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dave Brubeck - Adventures in Time

I must have been about 13 years old. I'd been playing drums since I was about 8 or 9 (can't remember). My Grandmother gave me this Dave Brubeck record. I didn't really appreciate it at first. In fact, it wasn't until a few years later when I saw Dave Brubeck on TV - it was a concert from the 80's on PBS - not the classic quartet, but still Dave kicking ass regardless. That was when I "got it". Watching the interplay between the musicians, the skill and exciting spontaneous nature of the music-making - THEN I went back to this record.

Funny - this was not a "proper" release from the heyday of the classic Columbia-era quartet, but a compilation album with some live tracks in place of the more popular studio versions of songs. The unifying theme to the record (released in 1972 as a double LP) was to focus on tracks featuring odd time-signatures. "Take Five" was perhaps the most famous example of Brubeck stretching beyond the usual pulse of 4 or 3 (the composition's title referring to the meter of 5/4 the song moves in). But "Take Five" was merely the tip of the iceberg - how about tunes in 7/8, 9/8, 10/4? How can those odd meters possibly even swing? Well, the whole group does indeed swing, but special mention must go to the great drummer Joe Morello. Just even thinking about Joe Morello's superb style of playing makes me smile.

Adventures in Time, being a double record, had a great inside panel of liner notes with the right time signatures listed by each song. In one case, a nifty suggestion was added next to "Blue Rondo a-la Turk" in 9/8 - how to count this? Try one-two/one-two/one-two/one-two-three. It follows the melody perfectly. This blew my mind! Really helped me to understand how to approach unusual time signatures as I imagine it did for a lot of people, actually.

I know most folks reference the studio versions of "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a-la Turk", but on this album live performances are used (no credits about when or where these took place). For me, these are the definitive versions - the studio cuts sound TAME in comparison. The versions on this record are rollicking and extended with all sorts of great interplay - and much quicker tempos! This collection has never been issued on CD (as far as I know) - maybe the live cuts have been added to CD reissues? I wouldn't know - sorry to admit I don't own much Dave Brubeck on CD. In fact, I really need to add more titles to my shamefully small collection - at some point I will profile another Dave Brubeck Quartet favorite - "Jazz Impressions of Japan".

For now, though - this album is still the tops for me. I even like the quasi-psychedelic cover art. In fact, here's the back cover:
Man, I could keep going off on how much I dig Dave Brubeck, Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright - but do yourself a favor and check some of the great vibrations these guys put down for us all!

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had ever learned to play more than a mangled slide guitar ... ahem ... "learned" is open to interpretation. Sorry I've been absent of late. As you know I've moved to the deeeep south, and my computer time has been severely limited. Things are looking up, and down, and all around. Nothing seems to happen in the order we expect. Kinda like the tempos you were referring to here. I am learning to appreciate odd tempos :) ... peace love and smiles!