Dipping into the Brubeck discography

I’ve been a fan of Dave Brubeck’s jazz since I first listened to my parents’ copy of Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits, which is how I discovered “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Since then I picked up many of the great man’s recordings (including A Dave Brubeck Christmas, which I reviewed for Blogcritics back in the day), and even got a chance to sing with him. Which, apparently, is a story I haven’t told in much detail (though some parts are here and here).

But I hadn’t dug systematically into his discography, at least not in the same way that I had Coltrane or Miles. So when, during this fall’s Veracode Hackathon, a small truckload of vinyl showed up, I was thrilled to find some Brubeck records I hadn’t yet listened to. And then to pick them up for a dollar apiece at the end-of-Hackathon fire sale/fundraiser.

The three records are all different and all interesting. Gone With the Wind is a Georgia-themed recording, and Dave and the quartet dip into a bunch of different Deep South themed material, including works by Stephen Foster (“Swanee River,” aka “Old Folks at Home,””Camptown Races”) and works by non-Southerners that have grown deeply associated with the region (“Ol’ Man River,” “Shortnin’ Bread”). There’s no way in hell you’d get this record made today, given the echoes of slavery, minstrelsy, and other signs of our original national sin. But Brubeck and Paul Desmond turn in a convincing reading of the material.

What’s fascinating is that the record, which was released in 1959, was recorded after Brubeck had recorded Time Out. Columbia was apparently nervous about the odd time signatures the group was researching for the latter record and demanded something more conventional as insurance. Of course, Time Out turned out to be one of the great jazz classics of all time, while Gone With the Wind has been largely forgotten. It’s also fascinating to realize that this pleasant but largely inconsequential record was produced by Teo Macero, who was Miles Davis’s producer at Columbia—and that Teo recorded sessions with both Miles and Brubeck on the same day, April 22, 1959, for these very different albums.

The other two albums are less substantial still. Southern Scene features quartet, trio and solo performances of more Southern-adjacent standards, while Jazz: Red Hot and Cool marks a pleasant but ordinary set of live recordings of the quartet prior to the arrival of Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass.

But the delightful thing is that all three albums were well maintained, despite their bargain sale price, and sounded fantastic on the turntable. I think this vinyl hunting could get to be a habit …

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