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Cover Story [Issue # 15 ]
Dave Brubeck Quartet: London Flat, London Sharp

By Jason Sklar

london flat london sharp ( CD Bepop )


In 1958, Dave Brubeck set off from London on his first tour of Europe. 47 years later he’s recorded London Flat, London Sharp, his latest swinging quartet release on Telarc.

While Brubeck is well known for his playing on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” on the classic album, Time Out, off-meter playing still pervades his music on this album with “Unisphere” in 10/4 time signature and “Forty Days” in 5/4. In regard to the former, Brubeck says, “The guys love to play on that.” As does he. Brubeck has become a household name in jazz by incorporating polyrhythms and polytonality often in the setting of atypical time signatures including 7/4 and 9/8.

But growing up, he was classically trained by his mother and studied music at the College of the Pacific from 1938-42, served as a band leader in General Patton’s Army during World War II, and resumed his studies in classical music at Mills College. Brubeck assembled multiple groups following his tenure as a student, including his favorite, the Dave Brubeck Octet. This group disbanded following a near fatal swimming accident that injured Brubeck’s back.

Thankfully, he returned to jazz in 1951 when alto saxophonist Paul Desmond encouraged Brubeck to form a quartet. Brubeck’s pounding chording and experimental harmonies, juxtaposed with Desmond’s light West Coast cool sax sound, proved to be a winning combination.

At age 85, Brubeck still plays with dashing wit and jubilant character. Joining him are Bobby Militello on alto sax and flute, Michael Moore on double bass, and Randy Jones on drums. While Militello has a rapturous style next to Desmond, Brubeck proclaims, “All my groups have been great. This one is just as great as any of them.”


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