Solie Petit



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Brubeck- A‘Must’ For Diehards Bombay Friday After prolonged and confusing contact with all kinds of pseudo-jazz Bombay had its first taste of the genuine article when the Dave Brubeck Quartet performed at the Eros theatre on Thursday evening. This outfit an acknowledge leader of the “progressive” school consists of instrumentalists who are not only virtuosos but imbued with a high degree of musicianship. It has long been the fashion to sneer at “jazz” and the ones who’ve done the sneering can’t always be blamed, considering the jarring ill-tuned assaults their ears have endured so often. But the Brubeck Quartet changed all that. It would be false to say that all who came to scoff remained to admire-jazz takes longer to understand than one hearing. ROADBLOCKS But this much is certain: those who were fed up to the back teeth with saccharine ballad singers, rock ‘n’ rollers and the rest, received a pleasant shock indeed at finding that jazz, with serious interpreters, is music, which is intellectually as well as emotionally stimulating. This clearing of mental roadblocks is important, roadblocks which, in my own case had existed until I heard some recordings of Chet Baker and this same Brubeck and realised that their art was merely an extension of principles on which the classic masterpieces were based. Improvisation, one of the fundamentals of the jazz idiom, has been carried to extreme lengths by the “progressives.” At a recent Press conference Brubeck himself stressed this impromptu aspect of his work when he said that to him music gave little satisfaction unless he felt free to move-in content as well as interpretation, anywhere he chose. NO TRAMMELS I am glad this insistence on “subjective” playing is something of a fetish with Brubeck, for it resulted in some astonishing flights of musical fancy. Not that I believe for an instant that what we heard was entirely unplanned. Certain sequences of ideas had obviously been roughly chalked oout, with only the rhythmic and harmonic outlines left to fill in, others were too well organised to be spur-of-the-moment ideas. But this does not detract in the last from Brubeck’s achievements, for this “filling in” was a remarkable thing to witness. The group would begin with the bare bones of a melody and within a minute the alto sax would jolt the basic tune out of its customary musical setting and lead it through unfamiliar terrain. During this first stage the piano would supply a “sotto voce” backing of chord progressions to match the soloist. Then Brubeck would take over with an extended development in which the original theme would go through the most amazing and intricate convolutions, with the percussion (both drums and bass) supplying rhythmic variety. The development would be followed by a recapitulation and coda which would lightly toss the initial theme at us and vanish before we quite knew what had happened. I have drawn these parallels in sonata form quite deliberately, since in structure Brubeck’s music is a coherent (though not always logical) development of a pattern from a single subject or group of subjects. I have also drawn them because “jazz” is held in such odium by so many, that it must have come as a pleasant surprise to watch these jazzmen revel in contrapuntal stratagems which, for all their strangeness are sound and completely effective. One reason why Brubeck appeals to those who abhor “swing” and the like, is that he is no lover of discord for its own sake. He knows the deep root that “tonality” has in the listener’s subconscious and he has little use for the tonal iconoclasm of Webern and Alban Berg. In parts of “St. Louis Blues” I felt he had momentarily discarded tonality, and in a lengthy portion of “Dave Digs Disney” (the piano-bass duet) the music had a polytonal flavour –but these were exceptions. One does not have to get technical, however, to rate Brubeck’s music as really worth hearing. His originality, the ingenious manner in which new solutions were found to problems as old as music itself, and the spontaneity that ran through the work of the entire group, made the evening one of Bombay’s most memorable. I have dealt with the style of the “progressives” rather than with the work of individuals but is would be unfair to omit mention of Paul Desmond (sax), Moe Morello (drums) and Gene Wright (bass). Their musical was in evidence throughout the concert, their occasional sallies into the limelight as soloist were greeted with applause that was deafening and fully merited. For those who stayed away from the first Brubeck concert because of snobbery of inhibitions there are still two recitals at the Stadium. They can safely attend and still keep their snobbery intact. For a good many “diehards” were at the Eros show-obviously enjoying every minute of it. -Solie Pettit

Date Original


Date Digital

January 2007


Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library


This item is part of the Brubeck Collection, MSS 004.

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