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Darius Brubeck Quartet - Darius Brubeck Quartet, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017. Rating: 4 out of 5 The performance of the day, delivered by four superb individuals who also benefited from the tightness, cohesion and confidence that comes from being part of a regular band.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

DARIUS BRUBECK QUARTET, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017.

Of all the famous names to have played at Brecon Jazz Festival during its thirty four years of existence one that slipped through the net was that of the late great American pianist and composer Dave Brubeck (1920-2012).

Nevertheless it still represented a considerable coup for Brecon Jazz Club to persuade Dave’s eldest son Darius Brubeck, a respected pianist and composer on his own account, to bring his quartet to the Guildhall for Saturday night’s headline concert. Such is the esteem in which the Brubeck name is held that the event was sold out well in advance with the capacity audience in the Guildhall giving Darius and his colleagues a rapturous reception. There was a real sense of occasion about this keenly anticipated concert and the Brubeck Quartet didn’t disappoint in a performance that mixed Darius’ own highly credible original compositions with classics from his late father’s oeuvre.

Born in 1947 Darius Brubeck has been based in London since 2006 and has assembled an excellent band of musicians from the capital’s jazz scene including the experienced saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, rising star bassist Matt Ridley and the South African born drummer Wesley Gibbens. This line up has recorded two excellent albums, 2014’s “Cathy’s Summer” , dedicated to Brubeck’s wife and manager Catherine,  and the recent follow up “Years Ago” (2016).

Having enjoyed a performance by this same quartet at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival I had some idea of what to expect but tonight’s set was significantly different to that previous performance with a greater emphasis being placed on the material from the then unreleased “Years Ago” album.

Nevertheless Brubeck quickly ensured that the audience were on his side by immediately launching into “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, one of Dave Brubeck’s most famous compositions which first appeared on the classic album “Time Out” from 1959. “Time Out” featured Dave Brubeck’s experiments with unusual time signatures, for example “Blue Rondo” is in 9/8.
But for all the complexity the tunes on the album possessed memorable melodies and the album has proved to be Dave’s most enduringly popular work. A round of spontaneous applause rippled round the Guildhall as excited concert goers recognised the memorable melody.  The first solo actually came from O’Higgins who fulfilled the Paul Desmond role on tenor with a lengthy but fluent and authoritative solo that at one point saw Brubeck dropping out and the group temporarily going into saxophone trio mode. O’Higgins likes to squeeze quotes from other tunes into his solos, at Cheltenham it was “Stranger In Paradise”,  here it was “Would You Like To Swing On A Star”.  Brubeck followed him on the Guildhall’s upright, not quite the kind of instrument he’s used to, but still sounding good with the pianist’s strong left hand rhythms complementing his agile right hand soloing. Ridley, like O’Higgins a successful band leader in his own right, was featured on the bass before O’Higgins and Brubeck traded fours with the impressive Gibbens.  The piece was a good introduction to the individual voices of a remarkably tight and cohesive quartet that works together on a regular basis despite the members’ various other projects. The sense of togetherness was compounded by the band uniform of suits, and in most cases ties, with Ridley’s famously hirsute locks firmly tied up.

A lesser known Dave Brubeck tune followed in the form of “For Iola”, a dedication to the composer’s wife, and by extension Darius’ mother.  Darius’ quartet recorded the tune on the “Years Ago” album and their version features O’Higgins on soprano sax. Tonight this was to be the saxophonist’s only outing on the straight horn as he shared the soloing with Darius at the piano.

At this point Darius conducted a straw poll asking members of the audience to raise their hands if they’d ever seen his father play. A surprisingly large number of hands shot up including that of the man sitting next to me, Yorkshire born John, a Brecon Jazz Club regular who recalled seeing Brubeck Senior at a concert in Leeds in the early 1960s. All this was a prelude to introducing the next tune, Darius’ own “I Saw Your Father”, the remark he hears more than any other at gigs up and down the country. Recorded for the “Years Ago” album the tune is a lively celebration of Dave’s life and incorporates a not very veiled quote from “Take Five”, Dave’s biggest hit.  O’ Higgins featured first on muscular tenor followed by Brubeck at the piano who incorporated both Latin and South African elements into his solo. Ridley followed on melodic double bass and finally Gibbens featured on the drums, cast in the role of “Time Out” drummer Joe Morello.

Introducing the members of the band Brubeck revealed that the quartet had been together for ten years, a fact reflected in the fluency and cohesiveness of the performance. “Being together so long allows us to be adventurous, yet secure at the same time” remarked Brubeck, and listening to the band one could understand exactly what he meant.

The next tune was the 1930s jazz standard “More Than You Know”, a tune regularly played by Dave Brubeck back in the day. Tonight’s ballad arrangement began with an unaccompanied tenor sax introduction from O’Higgins that subsequently developed into a more orthodox jazz solo, his playing fluent yet soulful and emotive. Brubeck then coaxed similar qualities out of the upright prior to a solo sax cadenza from O’Higgins.

Brubeck explained the etymology of the American expression “Flippin’ The Bird”, a phrase that forms the title of a tune on the “Cathy’s Summer” album.  The explanation also gave him the opportunity to have a dig at the hated Donald Trump, something that drew another round of applause from the audience. The tune itself was one of the most lively of the set, up-tempo and boppish with tricky unison riffs and phrases that allowed for some bright and sparky exchanges between Brubeck, Gibbens and O’Higgins prior to similarly exuberant solos from tenor sax and piano.

The title of “In The Spanish Mode”, another tune from the “Years Ago” album was possibly inspired by Jelly Roll Morton. Musically the tune owed something to Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” or the Iberian inspired compositions of Chick Corea with its flamenco flourishes and close instrumental interplay. The piece was something of a feature for Ridley who played a wonderfully melodic bass solo accompanied by Brubeck’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Gibben’s hands on the drum skins.

Darius Brubeck’ has a deep rooted connection to South Africa, having spent over twenty years in the country as the Head of Jazz at the University of KwaZulu Natal where he initiated the first degree course in Jazz Studies offered by an African university. He still retains an honorary artist-in-residence post at KwaZulu Natal and returns to South Africa on an annual basis.

To celebrate this long running African connection the quartet performed “Mamazala”, a tune written by the South African alto saxophonist Zim Ngqawana and recorded for the “Years Ago” album. Tonight Brubeck introduced the tune on unaccompanied piano, his Township style cadences reminiscent of those of the great Abdullah Ibrahim. Indeed the whole tune possesses that unmistakable lilting South African feel and it provided the basis for relaxed but assured and fluent solos from O’Higgins on tenor and Brubeck on piano, the latter sounding positively celebratory, his pianistic outpourings supported by the fizz and sizzle of Gibbens’ cymbals allied to Ridley’s elastic bass grooves.

Inevitably the performance finished with a rousing version of “Take Five”, ushered in by a dialogue between Ridley and Gibbens that eventually gave way to that famous piano motif followed by the familiar sax melody immortalised by the song’s composer Paul Desmond.  O’Higgins took the first solo on tenor followed by Brubeck with an expansive outpouring on piano, his fieriest and best solo of the night. Finally Gibbens recreated something of the feel of Morello’s celebrated solo on the original with a drum feature that made melodic use of toms and kick drum.

Of course this brought the house down and a deserved encore saw the quartet romping briskly through an unannounced piece that sounded naggingly familiar and sounded as if it might have been written by Duke Ellington. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me. In any event the performance included concise solos from O’Higgins, Brubeck and Ridley, the latter letting his hair down, literally.

Afterwards the band assembled downstairs to meet and greet the public and sign copies of the CDs that were positively flying off the shelves. This had been the performance of the day, delivered by four superb individuals who also benefited from the tightness, cohesion and confidence that comes from being part of a regular band.

The shows earlier in the day at the Guildhall by groups led by guitarist Gerard Cousins and pianist Atsuko Shimada had both been very good but this performance by the Brubeck Quartet took the music up another notch.

Darius Brubeck Quartet, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.

Darius Brubeck Quartet

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Darius Brubeck Quartet, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.
Photography: Photograph by Bob Meyrick

The performance of the day, delivered by four superb individuals who also benefited from the tightness, cohesion and confidence that comes from being part of a regular band.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

DARIUS BRUBECK QUARTET, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017.

Of all the famous names to have played at Brecon Jazz Festival during its thirty four years of existence one that slipped through the net was that of the late great American pianist and composer Dave Brubeck (1920-2012).

Nevertheless it still represented a considerable coup for Brecon Jazz Club to persuade Dave’s eldest son Darius Brubeck, a respected pianist and composer on his own account, to bring his quartet to the Guildhall for Saturday night’s headline concert. Such is the esteem in which the Brubeck name is held that the event was sold out well in advance with the capacity audience in the Guildhall giving Darius and his colleagues a rapturous reception. There was a real sense of occasion about this keenly anticipated concert and the Brubeck Quartet didn’t disappoint in a performance that mixed Darius’ own highly credible original compositions with classics from his late father’s oeuvre.

Born in 1947 Darius Brubeck has been based in London since 2006 and has assembled an excellent band of musicians from the capital’s jazz scene including the experienced saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, rising star bassist Matt Ridley and the South African born drummer Wesley Gibbens. This line up has recorded two excellent albums, 2014’s “Cathy’s Summer” , dedicated to Brubeck’s wife and manager Catherine,  and the recent follow up “Years Ago” (2016).

Having enjoyed a performance by this same quartet at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival I had some idea of what to expect but tonight’s set was significantly different to that previous performance with a greater emphasis being placed on the material from the then unreleased “Years Ago” album.

Nevertheless Brubeck quickly ensured that the audience were on his side by immediately launching into “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, one of Dave Brubeck’s most famous compositions which first appeared on the classic album “Time Out” from 1959. “Time Out” featured Dave Brubeck’s experiments with unusual time signatures, for example “Blue Rondo” is in 9/8.
But for all the complexity the tunes on the album possessed memorable melodies and the album has proved to be Dave’s most enduringly popular work. A round of spontaneous applause rippled round the Guildhall as excited concert goers recognised the memorable melody.  The first solo actually came from O’Higgins who fulfilled the Paul Desmond role on tenor with a lengthy but fluent and authoritative solo that at one point saw Brubeck dropping out and the group temporarily going into saxophone trio mode. O’Higgins likes to squeeze quotes from other tunes into his solos, at Cheltenham it was “Stranger In Paradise”,  here it was “Would You Like To Swing On A Star”.  Brubeck followed him on the Guildhall’s upright, not quite the kind of instrument he’s used to, but still sounding good with the pianist’s strong left hand rhythms complementing his agile right hand soloing. Ridley, like O’Higgins a successful band leader in his own right, was featured on the bass before O’Higgins and Brubeck traded fours with the impressive Gibbens.  The piece was a good introduction to the individual voices of a remarkably tight and cohesive quartet that works together on a regular basis despite the members’ various other projects. The sense of togetherness was compounded by the band uniform of suits, and in most cases ties, with Ridley’s famously hirsute locks firmly tied up.

A lesser known Dave Brubeck tune followed in the form of “For Iola”, a dedication to the composer’s wife, and by extension Darius’ mother.  Darius’ quartet recorded the tune on the “Years Ago” album and their version features O’Higgins on soprano sax. Tonight this was to be the saxophonist’s only outing on the straight horn as he shared the soloing with Darius at the piano.

At this point Darius conducted a straw poll asking members of the audience to raise their hands if they’d ever seen his father play. A surprisingly large number of hands shot up including that of the man sitting next to me, Yorkshire born John, a Brecon Jazz Club regular who recalled seeing Brubeck Senior at a concert in Leeds in the early 1960s. All this was a prelude to introducing the next tune, Darius’ own “I Saw Your Father”, the remark he hears more than any other at gigs up and down the country. Recorded for the “Years Ago” album the tune is a lively celebration of Dave’s life and incorporates a not very veiled quote from “Take Five”, Dave’s biggest hit.  O’ Higgins featured first on muscular tenor followed by Brubeck at the piano who incorporated both Latin and South African elements into his solo. Ridley followed on melodic double bass and finally Gibbens featured on the drums, cast in the role of “Time Out” drummer Joe Morello.

Introducing the members of the band Brubeck revealed that the quartet had been together for ten years, a fact reflected in the fluency and cohesiveness of the performance. “Being together so long allows us to be adventurous, yet secure at the same time” remarked Brubeck, and listening to the band one could understand exactly what he meant.

The next tune was the 1930s jazz standard “More Than You Know”, a tune regularly played by Dave Brubeck back in the day. Tonight’s ballad arrangement began with an unaccompanied tenor sax introduction from O’Higgins that subsequently developed into a more orthodox jazz solo, his playing fluent yet soulful and emotive. Brubeck then coaxed similar qualities out of the upright prior to a solo sax cadenza from O’Higgins.

Brubeck explained the etymology of the American expression “Flippin’ The Bird”, a phrase that forms the title of a tune on the “Cathy’s Summer” album.  The explanation also gave him the opportunity to have a dig at the hated Donald Trump, something that drew another round of applause from the audience. The tune itself was one of the most lively of the set, up-tempo and boppish with tricky unison riffs and phrases that allowed for some bright and sparky exchanges between Brubeck, Gibbens and O’Higgins prior to similarly exuberant solos from tenor sax and piano.

The title of “In The Spanish Mode”, another tune from the “Years Ago” album was possibly inspired by Jelly Roll Morton. Musically the tune owed something to Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” or the Iberian inspired compositions of Chick Corea with its flamenco flourishes and close instrumental interplay. The piece was something of a feature for Ridley who played a wonderfully melodic bass solo accompanied by Brubeck’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Gibben’s hands on the drum skins.

Darius Brubeck’ has a deep rooted connection to South Africa, having spent over twenty years in the country as the Head of Jazz at the University of KwaZulu Natal where he initiated the first degree course in Jazz Studies offered by an African university. He still retains an honorary artist-in-residence post at KwaZulu Natal and returns to South Africa on an annual basis.

To celebrate this long running African connection the quartet performed “Mamazala”, a tune written by the South African alto saxophonist Zim Ngqawana and recorded for the “Years Ago” album. Tonight Brubeck introduced the tune on unaccompanied piano, his Township style cadences reminiscent of those of the great Abdullah Ibrahim. Indeed the whole tune possesses that unmistakable lilting South African feel and it provided the basis for relaxed but assured and fluent solos from O’Higgins on tenor and Brubeck on piano, the latter sounding positively celebratory, his pianistic outpourings supported by the fizz and sizzle of Gibbens’ cymbals allied to Ridley’s elastic bass grooves.

Inevitably the performance finished with a rousing version of “Take Five”, ushered in by a dialogue between Ridley and Gibbens that eventually gave way to that famous piano motif followed by the familiar sax melody immortalised by the song’s composer Paul Desmond.  O’Higgins took the first solo on tenor followed by Brubeck with an expansive outpouring on piano, his fieriest and best solo of the night. Finally Gibbens recreated something of the feel of Morello’s celebrated solo on the original with a drum feature that made melodic use of toms and kick drum.

Of course this brought the house down and a deserved encore saw the quartet romping briskly through an unannounced piece that sounded naggingly familiar and sounded as if it might have been written by Duke Ellington. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me. In any event the performance included concise solos from O’Higgins, Brubeck and Ridley, the latter letting his hair down, literally.

Afterwards the band assembled downstairs to meet and greet the public and sign copies of the CDs that were positively flying off the shelves. This had been the performance of the day, delivered by four superb individuals who also benefited from the tightness, cohesion and confidence that comes from being part of a regular band.

The shows earlier in the day at the Guildhall by groups led by guitarist Gerard Cousins and pianist Atsuko Shimada had both been very good but this performance by the Brubeck Quartet took the music up another notch.


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