1.Opening applause 0:33
2.M.I.T Blues 10:39
3.One Moment Worth Years 8:36
5.The Duke 2:31
6.Take The “A” Train 12:23
7.I’m In a Dancing Mood 3:39
8.Band Introductions 1:33
9.St. Louis Blues 9:15
10.These Foolish Things 10:13
11.Sounds Of The Loop 8:22
12.Closing applause 0:53
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Concert Date: February 3, 1958
Library Of Congress Title/Carrier #: 1626611
Their First Time Out - Doug Anderson
This recording, captured during a Monday evening performance at one of the most prestigious technical universities in the United States, is noteworthy for reasons beyond the impeccable musicianship. It was the first Quartet concert featuring Eugene Wright on bass, who had just replaced Norman Bates (who, having had enough of the road, wanted to spend more time with his family). Thus it represents the very first recording ever made of the "classic" Quartet lineup of Brubeck, Desmond, Morello, and Wright.
Even on a cold Boston night, the group drew an overflow crowd to M.I.T.’s domed Kresge Auditorium, an icon of mid-century modern architecture designed by Eero Saarinen that was renowned for its sleek design and balanced acoustics. Listening to the masterfully executed show, one would never guess that the new roster had only a single nightclub performance to its credit, three nights prior.
The M.I.T. set is a thoroughly satisfying overview of the group’s pre-“Time Out” career. Brubeck’s soloing is tuneful throughout, with little evidence of the block chords and creative use of dissonance that would feature more prominently in the decade that followed. Highlights include a ten-minute blues improvisation that opens the concert (which, in terms of Brubeck’s commercial output, bears the most resemblance to “Closing Time Blues,” a 1955 performance included on the CD release of “Red Hot and Cool”). The group also delivers a beautiful rendering of “Tangerine,” discernably more up-tempo than the version available on Columbia’s “In Europe” and “Great Concert” LPs. Desmond’s lyrical inventiveness, even at that heightened pace, is breathtaking. But the stretch that generated the most audience reaction occurs during a twelve-minute rendition of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” when Brubeck and Morello engage in playful musical repartee. The unattributed review in the school newspaper the following week singled out Morello’s “sense of humor” during that give-and-take:
"For awhile he and Dave were playing cat-and-mouse, with the audience as mouse. Brubeck would play something, a chord sequence or a phrase, or just a single chord, then Morello would tap something, then Brubeck again, then Morello – each time something a little different: an off-beat accent, a slight syncopation, a different rhythmic effect. More than once the audience laughed out loud at some subtle trick; Morello led them on perfectly."
That night’s rendition of the Quartet’s most played song, “St. Louis Blues,” starts out swinging. Then, two and half minutes in, Desmond morphs the melody into a mournful Middle Eastern-inflected solo that is exotic, haunting, and wholly unlike anything in the twenty or so other DBQ performances of that tune that I’ve heard. A rousing “Sounds of the Loop” closes the show with a dazzling display of percussion pyrotechnics so intense that, according to the paper, “Brubeck and Wright were forced to seek refuge behind the piano.”
Hopes for an encore were dashed when Dave took the mic to note: “We have a long way to go, and we just have time to catch a plane, or we’d love to play a little longer.” But it didn’t take long for the chorus of disappointed “aww”s to dissolve into appreciative applause for the prodigious evening of jazz that, thankfully, had been committed to a spinning tape reel.
Sound Quality: Sourced from 15 inch-per-second (IPS) tape reels, this is a very good monophonic recording that equals or surpasses the dynamics of early Brubeck releases like “Jazz at Oberlin” and “Jazz Goes to College.” While the piano is not closely miked and you can hear the acoustics of the hall, there is a pleasing balance between the instruments, good bass presence, and treble definition even during Morello’s delicate brush-work on the drums. This performance would make an excellent commercial release, with far better audio quality than recent EU public domain CD releases of Brubeck performances derived from radio broadcasts.
“Dave, Paul, Et All.” The Tech [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] 11 Feb. 1958
(Text Copyright 2016, Douglas C. Anderson)