1. Osaka Blues
2. Song Introduction
3. Koto Song
4. Pennies From Heaven
5. Song Introduction
6. You Go To My Head
7. Take Five
Wolfgangs Vault - copyright
A legendary, revered figure in jazz, pianist-composer Dave Brubeck has always been a reliable draw for George Wein over the past 55 years at the Newport Jazz Festival. In fact, his recent appearance at the 2009 festival, at age 90, was as highly anticipated an event as Brubeck's first appearance at Newport back in 1954. Brubeck's performance at the 1964 festival with his regular quartet featuring longtime right-hand man Paul Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums was typically swinging, imbued with intricate counterpoint and polyrhythms and marked by signature odd time signatures, as on his classic "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (9/8) and "Unsquare Dance" (7/4) and Desmond's most famous composition, "Take Five" (5/4).
Their appearance at the '64 Newport Jazz Festival came on the heels of a 10-day tour of Japan, which inspired Brubeck to write some new material, some of which was premiered during this Fourth of July set.
They open with a bluesy sketch which would later be more fully developed as "Osaka Blues" on 1964's Jazz Impressions of Japan (one of the lesser known gems in Brubeck's discography). After stating the opening theme, Desmond begins his solo with a buttery-smooth tone and agile, blues-tinged lines on alto sax. Brubeck follows by stretching out on an exploratory piano solo that pushes the harmonic envelope while also revealing a decided Earl Hines influence. Wright, the rock of this quartet, then steps out with a nimble bass solo and Morello wraps up this series of solos with some whirlwind work on the kit before the quartet returns to the bluesy theme.
Next up is another number influenced by their trip to the Far East, "Koto Song," in which Brubeck cleverly invokes folk melodies of Japan in the fabric of the delicate piece, which is essentially a minor key modal blues.
Shifting moods from that more introspective number, they next launch into a spirited, up-tempo swinging rendition of the Depression-era number, "Pennies from Heaven." Brubeck states the theme with gusto before Desmond enters, floating eloquently over the changes while Wright and Morello heat up the groove beneath him.
Brubeck returns to deliver an effervescent two-fisted piano solo before engaging in some spirited exchanges of eights with the incredibly nimble drummer Morello. Brubeck and Desmond allude to a delicate fugue form before repeating the familiar head on the outro. "You Go To My Head" is a sublime example of Desmond's communicative powers on ballads. His searching high register approach on alto sax, which closely resembles the sound of a soprano sax, is both tonally appealing and is delivered with a kind of intimate vocal quality that is thoroughly engaging. Both Desmond and Brubeck have plenty of room to stretch on this 10-and-a-half minute standard. The pianist's cascading, harmonically probing soloŚmaking use of a wide range of dynamics and rhythmic variations, from rhapsodic to strideŚis one of the more inventive moments of the set.
They close it out with their catchy hit from 1959, Desmond's "Take Five." The Newport audience erupts with cheers of recognition as they state the familiar opening theme, and then the quartet heads deep into that mesmerizing 5/4 groove, with Desmond blowing freely over the top, showcasing his brilliance as a melodic improviser, while Brubeck investigates all the harmonic and rhythmic angles during his adventurous solo. "Take Five" is also renowned for Morello's extended, virtuosic solo in the middle of the piece, and he doesn't disappoint the Newport fans. His polyrhythmic, melodic approach to the kit here is something that both drum students and veterans alike will admire.
The quartet leaves the stage to unison shouts of "We want more," to which stage announcer replies, "All the 'we want mores' can go home. You should've come this afternoon, because this is when this all started." An abrupt ending to a beautiful set.