Personnel: Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); Dave Brubeck (piano); Lloyd Davis (drums).
Audio Remasterer: Joe Tarantino.
Liner Note Authors: James Newman; Ashley Kahn.
Recording information: Finney Chapel, Oberlin College (03/02/1953).
Dubbed as Dave Brubeck's first of many live recordings issued from concert performances on college campuses, Jazz at Oberlin (Ohio, in the Finney Chapel) also takes to task the notion that his band was ineffably cool. Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond is on fire no matter the tempo, and asserts his post-Charlie Parker influence in a way that few of his follow-up recordings intimated. This is a straight reissue from the original album, clocking in at under 40 minutes, but full of the great musicianship that made the Brubeck/Desmond tandem so popular. It's a recording also notable for bassist Ron Crotty and drummer Lloyd Davis, never as highly regarded as when they were in this quartet. Desmond comes out of the box smokin' for "These Foolish Things" even though the band plays easy blues/swing, and really tears up bop versions of "Perdido" and "The Way You Look Tonight." Only on the introduction of "How High the Moon" does Brubeck lead the way, deferring to his lead bandmate for most of this performance. Playing to a sophisticated, literate, academic crowd, the quartet appealed to these patrons to the extent that the pianist toured colleges exclusively for a time prior to the big hit "Take Five" becoming an iconic jazz staple. The Oberlin concert and LP release paved the way for the famous pair to perform prolifically throughout the decades of post-bop modern mainstream jazz. ~ Michael G. Nastos