Another release in Concord’s series of albums paying tribute to the Monterey Jazz Festival (previously: Cal Tjader) is one that fits me like a bespoke suit, because it features one of my favorites — Dave Brubeck. 50 Years Of Dave Brubeck – Live At The Monterey Jazz Festival (1958-2007) is exactly what you’d infer from the title, a celebration of Brubeck’s many appearances through the years. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Brubeck is in his eighties now and still performing, and his appearance at the 2007 festival wowed the crowds just as much as the one he made with the original quartet at the 1958 festival. In fact, you could probably make a good case for Brubeck being the heart and soul of the whole thing, because not only has he made numerous appearances through the years, but he was in at the beginning — before it even existed.
Brubeck and his legendary quartet – which included alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello, and bassist Eugene Wright – was the group chosen by the festival’s founder, Jimmy Lyons, to perform for local bigwigs and educate them about jazz. It worked out pretty well for everybody.
That edition of the Brubeck quartet is heard here on the first three tracks, which includes some familiar pieces. Among them is a 1962 performance of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” the quartet’s innovative jazz interpretation of the theme from Snow White, and from 1966, “Take Five,” a song that had a few years earlier become a mainstream hit and brought millions of new fans to jazz. It’s fascinating to hear and compare the improvisational play here with the familiar original.
In subsequent years, Brubeck appeared at the festival with later groups he’d formed. One of those included Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax, along with Jack Six on bass and Alan Dawson on drums, and included here are a couple of pieces from that group’s 1971 appearance. I especially liked Mulligan’s composition, “
Jumping Bean,” which features Latin accents and outstanding solos.
Later Brubeck appearances at the festival included one in 1985, when his son Chris joined in with some skillful play on the bass, and a poignant one in 1998 when Brubeck performed “Goodbye, Old Friend,” a song he’d written as a tribute to Mulligan, who had died in 1996. Just one of the many special moments on this album — highly recommended.