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Wednesday April 16, 2014
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All About the Trio

 

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All of this somehow came together under Brubeck's leadership. At first the repertoire consisted almost exclusively of standards, but soon the leader began to include his compositions, which ultimately became the quartet's calling cards. Milhaud's lessons and admonitions bore fruit, and Brubeck's writing avoided jazz commonplaces and sometimes paid homage to his teacher's polytonal techniques. Some of the best known of these compositions were "The Duke," "In Your Own Sweet Way," and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," probably the first jazz pieces in 9/8 time, and, of course, the quartet's most recognizable anthem, "Take Five," written by Desmond and originally a feature for Morello's virtuoso drumming. But there were many others, and Brubeck's interest in composition grew as he wrote pieces for the ballet and musical theater, leading finally to the breakup of the quartet in 1968; Brubeck wanted to get off the road, spend more time with family, and to dedicate more time to writing music.

Brubeck will always be best remembered for the classic quartet, but he continued to perform and compose for over half a century, with new trios and quartets and with symphony orchestras. I have always liked the recordings that featured baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, with whom the pianist seemed to have a special rapport, including two albums that brought Desmond back into the picture. Brubeck had made his first recording as a solo pianist at the age of twenty-two, and he topped off his career with a lovely series of solo piano albums, ending with the 2007 Indian Summer, an unhurried, wistful masterpiece.

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