Dave Brubeck Octet: Dave Brubeck (piano); Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); David Van Kriedt (tenor saxophone); Bob Collins (baritone saxophone); Dick Collins (trumpet); William O. Smith (clarinet); Jack Weeks (bass); Cal Tjader (drums).
Recorded in San Francisco, California. Originally released on Fantasy (3-239). Includes original liner notes by Dave Brubeck.
Digitally remastered by Kirk Felton (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).
Personnel: Dave Brubeck (piano); William O. Smith , Bill Smith (clarinet); Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); Dave VanKriedt (tenor saxophone); Bob Collins (baritone saxophone); Dick Collins (trumpet); Cal Tjader (drums).
Recording information: ??/1946-07/1950.
From 1946 to 1949, Dave Brubeck was involved in a co-op octet based in San Francisco that was in many ways more innovative than anything he did henceforth, and was also a parallel to the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions. When you listen to this marvelous ensemble, the threads connect between later period 1950s bands of Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Manny Albam, Gil Evans, and Bob Brookmeyer -- arrangers and composers whose music was intricate, involved, and evolved like that of this Brubeck band. The difference is that the members were students of 20th century icon Darius Milhaud, and to a lesser extent Roger Sessions. So the music has a quality that is directly related to fugues, rondos, and especially counterpoint, while retaining the cool bop flavor of California. While many of these players had a certain amount of credibility, they gained much more after the group was disbanded for lack of work. Cal Tjader was the drummer before forming his Latin jazz band and playing the vibraphone exclusively. Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond was just coming into his own, William O. (Bill) Smith played clarinet on this date, and with Brubeck for many years thereafter, and trumpeter Dick Collins was a mainstay in the bands of Woody Herman. It is the arrangements of tenor saxophonist David Van Kriedt that hold great interest. "Love Walked In" sports a clever in and out melody away from the original, "September in the Rain" and "I Hear a Rhapsody" are deceptively subtle, while Van Kriedt's originals "Prelude," "Fugue on Bop Themes," and "Serenade Suite" are respectively soulful, layered with individualism and diffuse. They display extreme intelligent design within a chamber jazz framework. Smith's no slouch in this department as his reworking of "What Is This Thing Called Love?" is a sneaky 5/4 to 4/4 swing, skating around this famous melody. His out-and-out original bopper "IPCA" makes the band sound larger than it is, while "Schizophrenic Scherzo" features the tart trumpet of Collins and Smith's lively, tuneful clarinet. Oh...Brubeck...he contributes a wonderfully engaging circular underpinned and involved arrangement of "The Way You Look Tonight," the epitome of West Coast cool bop. The pianists "Playland at the Beach" is an urban waltz, his version of "Laura" showcases his Erroll Garner-ish piano, "Rondo" is ultra-dramatic and foreshadows his famous "Blue Rondo … La Turk," while his chiming piano during "How High the Moon" is the highlight of a tune interrupted by announcer Jimmy Lyons. The most remarkable aspect of this recording is the incredible interplay ever present, pronounced throughout, and utterly delightful. A strong record full of the intent, purpose, and directives of all the bandmembers, and in many ways far ahead of its time, this is a highly recommended recording that all Brubeck and modern jazz fans should re-investigate, embrace, and take to heart. ~ Michael G. Nastos