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Monday, February 28, 2022

The Dave Brubeck Quartet


At A Perfume Counter

Dave Brubeck Quartet
Vogue Records Limited - London, England
LAE 12105


(a) Paul Desmond - Alto, Dave Brubeck - Piano, Wyatt Ruther - Bass, Lloyd Davis - Drums
Recorded in San Francisco - September, 1952

(b) Dave Brubeck - Piano Solo
Recorded in San Francisco - September, 1952

(c) Paul Desmond - Alto, Dave Brubeck - Piano, Bob Bates - Bass, Joe Dodge - Drums 
Recorded in concert at the Berlee School of Music, Boston - Summer, 1955

From the back cover: "I don't know where you got it from", said the voice of Dave Brubeck over the telephone, "but that story about Paul and Ron Crotty and me in your Oberlin LP liner was all wrong". Justifiably Dave had taken exception to a story which had been included in the sleeve notes to Vogue LAE 12048 Dave Brubeck Quartet At Oberlin; my source was 'reliable' and the facts as I gave them had been published in a British musical weekly some months before. However, clearing up the misunderstanding gave me an opportunity to discuss the Quartet with Dave and to pass on a request, ("If you're going to ring up Dave Brubeck tomorrow," said Don Rendell, "tell him that Eddie Sauter wants him to bring out two Peterson pipes. Eddie's working on a radio station at Baden-Baden. I saw him there last week".) All this took place in February, 1958, towards the end of Dave's first British tour and the Quartet was preparing to embark on the next stage of its European trip. British audiences had been divided in their opinion of Brubeck and Desmond, unanimous in their acclaim of drummer Joe Morello and bass player Gene Wright. It was later, in Poland, that the group made its biggest impression. The Poles, whose country gave birth to Chopin and whose first Prime Minister was Jan Paderewski, the great concert pianist, appreciate music so long as it is well played and freedom of expression enjoyed by jazzmen and the appearance of Dave and his men was doubly welcome. Clearly few records can approximate the atmosphere of an in-person performance and the Poles were fortunate in witnessing the best of all Brubeck's quartets.

But the contemporary Brubeck unit which captivated European audiences could not have existed without years of trial, sacrifice and hard work. "I had to fight for bookings," Dave told me. "At the beginning the club owners wanted just a trio, you know, piano, bass and drums, and I had to insist that they took Paul as well". Some of  the engagements were far from the Quartet's home base in San Francisco; traveling was wearying and expensive. "My wife and I had to live in a caravan for some time; I couldn't even afford to take her to the cinema for months. I was so determined to make the Quartet a success that we had to watch every cent".

Dave suffered the privations of a self-willed artiste fighting public apathy. A jazz musician whose aim is to establish his art without resorting to a dilution of his talents via commercialism is faced with some acute problems. Dave was forced to balance his responsibilities to his family and to his three employees maintaining all the while the purposeful directness of his musical policy.

Gradually some recognition came his way; record dates for the San Francisco 'Fantasy' label helped to spread the name and the sound of the Quartet. Six of the tracks on this present LP come from a relatively early studio session and these short versions of All The Things You Are, Stardust, etc., set the pattern for later and longer concert transcriptions. Lulu's Back In Town is of interest in that the opening chorus is presented after the manner of an old English 'round' with the alto coming in after the piano. My Romance, an unaccompanied piano solo, is a restful ballad performed with  little of Brubeck's probing experimentation but plenty of his romantic lyricism.

A continuing artistic development is satisfying to witness and the lengthy Perfume Counter, which occupies most of the second side, shows what he happened to the Quartet in three years. A string of college and campus concerts lay behind and ahead while Brubeck and Desmond seemed to be reaching new fields of instrumental rapport with each successive performance. Perfume Counter is spread over nineteen choruses and gives Paul and Dave ample room in which to display their flair for improvisation The alto takes the first solo with a passing quotation from Pistol Packing Momma thrown in at the second eight of the first chorus. Having disposed of this piece of humor Paul goes on to use his imagination with shifting rhythmic accents and reiterated phrases. Dave's dozen choruses comprise a well-constructed piano solo which is based on sound architectural principles. The calm before the storm is supplied  by some fairly conventional linear extemporizations which act as a prelude to dramatic block-chords. The induced tension is a study in itself; Brubeck generates a powerful feeling of swing in his fifth chorus then in the eight he employs a tremolo-like figure with his right hand while playing a series of plunging chords with his left. As the solo continues the pianist's stature seems to increase bar by bar until his towering personality takes full command of the situation. The short bass solo comes as something of an anti-climax before the re-stating of the theme which closes the performance in a comparatively sedate manner.

"I could not repeat the recordings I have made now," Brubeck wrote to me, "without a deliberate attempt to analyze and there is no progress in repeating past performances". Elsewhere it has been said that Dave sacrifices technical perfection in order to capture spontaneity and if the result is piano music of the Perfume Counter standard then I believe he is correct in adopting this policy. – Alun Morgan - Vogue Records, London

Stardust (a)
At A Perfume Counter (c)
Alice In Wonderland (a)
All The Things You Are (a)
Lulu's Back In Town (a)
My Romance (b)
Just One Of Those Things (a)

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