The superb Darius Brubeck Quartet flew into action when they performed for a crowded house at the highly successful live concert promoted by the National Jazz Archive at Loughton Methodist Church on September 18.
Darius strode toward the grand piano greeting the expectant audience with a friendly smile, setting everyone including his own group at ease and readying us for some uplifting Brubeckian jazz.
He had been welcomed on stage by David Nathan of the NJA who advised that the Quartet included tenor saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, Matt Ridley on double bass and Wesley Gibbens on drums.
The first set began promptly at 2.30 p.m. and jazz in the afternoon is a really cool alternative to midnight jam sessions when getting home, or anywhere else these days is a decidedly uncool nightmare!
The chaps went straight into ‘Blue Rondo á La Turk’ famed for its attacking, dynamic piano introduction so startling when it first appeared on Dave Brubeck’s 1959 classic album Time Out. After the pianist set an aggressive, almost neurotic mood, Dave played the contrastingly casual response on tenor rather than alto saxophone, putting his own stamp on the well remembered theme.
The tight knit quartet abruptly switched from classical intensity to jazz joie de vivre, as Wesley’s ride cymbal locked together with Matt’s full toned bass. He later switched to brushes on the snare drum when the talented Mr. Ridley launched into a one of the most melodic bass solos ever encountered.
The quartet began to sound like a big band during a chorus of Basie-ite riffing before Darius took us back into the realms of ‘Rondo’. And that was just the first number, almost a concert in itself.
‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ is a sentimental yet brisk Dave Brubeck composition that appeared on his 1955 Love Songs album. Darius pointed out it had been covered by many artists including Miles Davis, who recorded it twice. After his solo piano interpretation the band played on with Dave offering warm Coltrane-ish tenor and Matt once again excelled with a sensitive approach to a bulbous instrument that becomes like a delicate Stradivarius violin in his nimble hands and fingers.
Darius chatted to the audience between songs enhancing the sense of communication between artists and listeners, as he recalled the events of 2020. It was a perilous year when Covid19 “not only happened in China but in Ronnie Scott’s Club as well”. That’s where he caught the disease in March and had to endure a month in hospital on a ventilator fighting to recover.
When they played Kathy’s Waltz another tune from Time Out he told how Columbia misspelled the title on the sleeve. It should have been Cathy’s Waltz with a ‘C’ in honour of Darius’ sister. “Dave took revenge on Columbia by spelling the record company’s name Kolumbia.” It was fun to spot how tenor saxophonist Dave quoted from I Like To Swing On A Star during one of his solos, amusing my special adviser baritone player Alan Phillips, sitting next to me in the front row.
That unforgettably jaunty tune The Duke that Brubeck Senior dedicated to Duke Ellington completed a rousing and satisfying first set and after tea in the Green Room the Quartet was back for the final hour or more of fine music. This time they played mostly original compositions by Darius including Earth Rise from their Live In Poland album recorded to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s first visit behind the Iron Curtain, made when Darius was ten years old.
The piece was inspired by the view of Earth from space that shows humanity the fragility of our world and its risk of being harmed by all manner of ravage and destruction. “Look at the Earth and think about it, because there is NO PLAN-ET B!”
MATT THE CAT
‘Matt The Cat’ was a real bopping swinger, Wesley building up a head of steam with his shining ride cymbals and snare drum fills as they headed towards a snappy coda. Their tireless and tasteful drummer also had a chance to shine later with an extended solo during the encore.
Darius told how the Quartet had been together for 12 years, a remarkable feat in itself. He announced: “We don’t want to let you go home disappointed.” Cue ‘Take Five’ the iconic hit tune that introduced so many inhabitants of Planet Earth to the World of Jazz. We could Take More. But here’s to the next time out with Brubeck.