Friday, October 23, 2009

After Hours

Dave Brubeck Quartet. Take Five

Here it is, the odd-meter, skinny-tie classic. The performance is from 1961. Although it's a little fast, Paul Desmond is in fine form on alto. Drummer Joe Morello screws up a few times. As with all drummers, he does it loudly. But I can cut the guy some slack. After all, he was, y'know, going blind. The two great things about this tune are: 1. it's by Paul Desmond, one of the coolest drunks ever, and, 2. Dave Brubeck doesn't take a solo. I've long considered DB one of the most boring jazz pianists of all time. Him and John Lewis from the Modern Jazz Quartet, they top my "most profoundly boring" list. But what about all those great tunes DB wrote? Well, what about them? I like "The Duke" and "In Your Own Sweet Way." That's about it. Once again, Desmond (born Paul Breitenfeld) wrote "Take Five," because he was a drunken genius. Next to Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, he's my favorite alto player. Everybody loves that Desmond sound. He once joked that if Downbeat Magazine gave out awards for slowest and quietest sax player, he'd win every year. Such a clever guy. I think the secret to his playing is that he smoked a lot - three packs a day. I used to smoke around a pack a day and it was really tough to play anything loud for any amount of time. I really hate to think of how it is for somebody who smoked three times as much. And that's what got him. The poor guy quit Brubeck, talked about how he was going to write a book, a manifestation of his immense cleverness, and never did it. Instead, he hung out at bars, drank a lot and gave away the clever for free. He died in 1977 at age 52. Brubeck is still with us. So are Joe Morello and bassist, Gene Wright.

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