That Brubeck Blues

The vacation is over. I’m getting back into some kind of routine, if not yet what could be called a groove. Before that happens, I’m hitting the road again to spend a bit of time with my brother, who is less than well. In the meantime, here’s a followup to a post that attracted considerable comment.

The item about Paul Desmond’s 88th birthday included a link to a track called “Pilgrim’s Progress” from a 1956 Dave Brubeck Quartet concert recording. The piece is a close relative of “Audrey,” “Balcony Rock” and several other DBQ blues performances. Rifftides reader and frequent commenter Terence Smith pointed us to a fairly recent Brubeck solo with the same harmonic approach and mood. It’s from a 2003 Clint Eastwood film called Piano Blues in which Eastwood presents several pianists including Ray Charles, Jay McShann, Otis Spann, Pete Jolly and Dr. John, as well as film of Nat Cole, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington and others. In the course of the program, Eastwood sits at the piano to chat with his guests and listens to them play. Here is part of the Brubeck segment.

Brubeck will be 92 on December 6.

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  1. Terence Smith says

    Thanks to DR, Clint Eastwood, and Dave Brubeck for sharing this moment. As I saw this clip, I was thinking that the spirit of Paul Desmond is picking up his alto to segue to “Balcony Rock” with Dave.

    There’s always more to discover in Brubeck’s ongoing works, and I am thankful for Rifftides community for sharing points of entry into Dave and his fellow greats.

    Most Riff-tidesers may already know what I just discovered on you-tube: there was apparently another take of ” Audrey” from the “Brubeck Time” 1954 record date, which was later released under the title “Makin’ Time” on another obscure Columbia compilation LP (” I Like Jazz’ ). Somebody chose the dreamier take for the original LP, but it must have been a tough choice: Desmond and Brubeck both seem more “focused” on the equally great alternate take. Somebody named “kocn53 ” posted the alternate on You-Tube with a photo of the “I like Jazz” LP cover. (PS–since typing this, I noticed Brew has linked “Makin Time” on his Brewlite’s Jazz Tales website–). Check it out, or re-check it, ASAP!

    As I listened to the alternate Audrey’s “Makin Time” take-out chorus, I thought of a line from Cole Porter ( Every Time We Say Goodbye): “But how strange the change from major to minor”. When Brubeck and Desmond play minor blues, how familiar they can make the change from minor to major! They seem to make us feel it coming, are in no hurry to get there, and take various routes in various moods. When it arrives, it always arrives with a strangely familiar smile of recognition.

    The musical joys of Brubeck (and Desmond) are joys to share, and they share so much to so many.

    Happy Birthday to Dave Brubeck, and good riff-tidings to all Brubeck and Desmond fans everywhere!

  2. says

    That’s the very Dave Brubeck who made me shout out loudly “Swing it, Dave, swing it!”

    You may know the verdict of some critics: DB doesn’t swing, probably due to too much knowledge, meaning too much brain involved. That may be partly true, since he tended to get a bit bombastic when building his improvisations, particularly in the later edition of the DBQ.

    Well, those critics became more and more silent since the elder statesman of jazz took over whilst the angry, or rather the ambitious young man with a message grew wiser with the years.

    Other matter: But what about Clint Eastwood regarding sapience?

    Let me add: There’s nothing wrong with some brain involved.

    • Terence Smith says


      Didn’t Gerry Mulligan once point out that those some critics who sniffed that Dave “didn’t swing” were the same fadmongers whose chosen favorites didn’t even *try* to swing? It’s certainly hard to resist Dave’s subleties of swing in this clip, swing in service of meaning, and feeling something worth meaning. And Brew, I sure hope everyone uses your “Brewlites” link today for “Makin Time” with BOTH 1954 “Audreys”, demonstrating the endless fertility, swing, and chemistry of Brubeck and Desmond—

      Also, Doug Ramsey, I think a lot of us are thinking of your brother. All the best to you and yours.

      • says

        You’re so right, Terence, I wonder what those critics would have written about Thomas Waller, that he would clown around too much?

        There are so many ways to make a line, a song, a phrase swing.

        For me, swing is not only a musical thing, it’s a way of living. It has something to do with love too. And with joy, and also with a feeling for romance; that’s what I thought first when I listened to Dave’s playing at the above video: He is a romantic besides being a jazz musician.

        And our cold and materialistic, our mad, world needed some true romantics, all the better when they can swing a little, too.

        Regarding that chemistry you’re talking about, it came to my knowledge that there is one more “Audrey” on the market: DAVE BRUBECK / PAUL DESMOND – AT THE FREE TRADE HALL 1958. Those sounds were never released before, and they represent the very first encounter of the “new” Dave Brubeck Quartet with Eugene Wright & Joe Morello.

        • Terence Smith says


          the 2-CD set you mentioned “Live at the Free Trade Hall,1958” ( Solar Records# 4569900) is not only the first ( and only recently released) recording of the Brubeck-Desmond- Morello- Gene Wright combination, but it is an absolutely sublime set of performances every fan will treasure. The “Audrey” it ends with is arguably the greatest of all! And somehow it is fitting that the end is tantalizingly cut off–before they go to the return of Desmond and the release to major.

          Also, the hard-to-find “Dave Brubeck Live (in 1954 and 1959)” on the Bandstand label (BS 18009) has a thing called “Shish Kebab” (1954), which sure sounds like a relative of “Balcony Rock”.

  3. mel says

    Thanks for the tip, Doug. Eastwood’s Piano Blues looks interesting – I’ll be watching it in its entirety on YouTube shortly.

  4. Mick Davis says

    Well, how sad it was to hear the news of Dave Brubeck’s death just a single day short of his 92nd birthday. He brought a great deal of joy to the world through his music and he will be fondly remembered by thousands and thousands of people across the world. He had – as we are wont to say in England – “a good innings” and he certainly did things in his own sweet way, which made him the wonderful human being he certainly was.