Listen Up: Wednesday, June 19, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Dave Brubeck Quartet

Park Avenue South (Telarc Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Back in 1959, a year when Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman all released epochal albums, the sound of jazz was defined for most of Middle America by ex-Time magazine coverboy Dave Brubeck and his album Time Out. Polite and cerebral, Brubeck delved into unusual time signatures on tunes like “Blue Rondo à la Turk” and “Take Five,” in the company of sophistos like saxman Paul Desmond and the impeccable drummer Joe Morello. When the rock kids started picking up on jazz in the ’70s, Brubeck cashed in by touring with his three longhaired sons in Two Generations of Brubeck.

It’s sadly indicative of the place jazz now occupies in the American cultural landscape that this new c.d., Park Avenue South, was recorded in a Starbucks, albeit a high-profile one in Manhattan. Not that the setting matters: On this disc, Brubeck is joined by a couple of longtime associates and former big-band stalwarts, reedman Bobby Militello and drummer Randy Jones, along with staunch traditionalist bass player Michael Moore (not the Bowling for Columbine guy). They play a mix of standards and Brubeck originals.

On the surface, Park Avenue South is an archetypal head-plus-solos, straight-ahead blowing session, but Brubeck’s compositions and Militello’s improvs really shine. The somber “Elegy,” dedicated to the late Norwegian jazz scribe Randi Hultin, features a lovely theme played on flute and bowed bass. “Don’t Forget Me” opens in a similar mood before shifting after a couple of minutes to a wistful waltz. The waltz tempo pops up again in the breezy “I Love Vienna,” while the more visceral “Crescent City Stomp” veers into Coltranesque modal territory.

Brubeck is still so vital and creative that you can even forgive him for the inevitable reprise of “Take Five.” Not bad for a fella who just turned 82!


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