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Brubeck Nocturnes

available at Amazon
D. Brubeck, Nocturnes, John Salmon
It’s very refreshing to hear music that is not longer than it needs to be. While that pleasure of succinctness may not suffice to get listeners to discover a love for Webern – master of musical economy – it certainly does in the case of Dave Brubeck’s Nocturnes. Solo piano works that last anywhere from one minute to five, they are musical postcards from the composer, which is how Brubeck himself describes them in his liner notes.

With postcards you have to confine yourself to a few descriptive sentences to convey a mood – helped by a picture on the front. Then you scrawl in the corner: See you soon. Best Wishes. Love. That’s what Blue Lake Taho, Strange Meadowlark, and Koto Song do. Simple, to the point, successful like any good postcard: You get a glimpse of the place and the mood.

John Salmon’s caring performances don’t try to pretend complexity where there is none. Instead he contents himself to let simplicity and the varying rhythms speak for themselves. It all makes for very gratifying listening. But is it Jazz or is it “Classical”? If you listen, the question seems pointless. But for categorization’s sake: it’s “Classical”. Even if Bluette, Quiet as the Moon, and A Girl named Oli have their Jazz patronage written all over them, mild wafts of Chopin and even Debussy send it further to the “Classical” category than, say, Nikolai Kapustin’s works. (The latter’s fiendishly complex works, much less concerned with lyricism and representing the very other extreme of Jazz-influenced classical piano music, are worth exploring, by the way.)

Unlike so many other musicians from non-classical genres (Roger Waters, Paul McCartney – to mention only the worst offenders), Brubeck seems to have an innate musical standard that he cannot disown, no matter the style of music he delves into. I don’t suppose there is anyone who has not heard Brubeck’s music at some point… Jazz or otherwise. Time Out is as much a classic as Kind of Blue, the Köln Concert, and Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations. If you like Brubeck there – and if you are not afraid of skilled simplicity - the Nocturnes will appeal.

Naxos 8.559309


Joelogon said...

I'll have to add Nocturnes to the list -- your post inspired me to put on Time Out (I'm easily suggestible) -- perfect music for a Sunday afternoon. -- Joe

rb said...

yah, me too, I'm going to dig up my Time Out LP now and Nocturnes is in my sights since I read this