“I never expected to see you again,” quipped the octogenarian Dave Brubeck following the standing ovation that occurred Thursday evening at the Warner Theater before the first notes of the concert were struck. The Washington Performing Arts Society was fortunate to have been able to reschedule the Dave Brubeck Quartet after their canceled performance earlier this year. Given the superb performance, Brubeck, designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, must be feeling much better.
The program opened with Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues, which showcased Brubeck’s extraordinary musical partners, particularly saxophonist Bobby Militello, who was gallivanting all over the place. In Ellington’s Take the A-Train, Brubeck and bassist Michael Moore played cat and mouse, imitating themes ending in a joyously unexpected guffaw from Brubeck -- he is no stiff old man in a white suit. Indeed, Brubeck’s technique is remarkably supple and his tone beautiful. Splashes of wild color would often shoot out from the instrument after sections of chords under the orchestra. The piano solo introduction to Stormy Weather was very poetic.
Themes from the second movement of Howard (Dave’s brother) Brubeck’s Dialogue for Jazz Combo and Orchestra began with a masterfully fresh piano solo improvisation -- Brubeck’s playing is fresh, flexible, and never fixed -- followed by fascinating upward decrescendo runs on the saxophone. Next came a jazzy waterfall of kaleidoscopic improvised three-part counterpoint between piano, bass, and sax. It is possible that Bach himself would not have heard any broken counterpoint rules. Brubeck mentioned afterward that Howard “wanted to bring classical, so-called classical, and jazz together.”
Matt Schudel, Dave Brubeck: Live Last Night (Washington Post: Post Rock, June 12)
Highlights of the WPAS Jazz series for next season include concerts by Sonny Rollins (December 2), Miguel Zenón (February 20), Jazz at Lincoln Center (March 1), and Ramsey Lewis with Ann Hampton Callaway (May 15).