Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Where: Orchestra Hall
Who: Dave Brubeck (piano), Bobby Militello (alto saxophone and flute), Michael Moore (bass), Randy Jones (drums)
All day, the weather has been threatening; I've gotten frequent MyCast emails about tornado warnings and watches. About an hour before we leave home for Orchestra Hall, the town of Hugo northeast of the Twin Cities will be pounded.
I'm reminded of the last time I saw Brubeck in Minneapolis, on June 24, 2003. As we listened to the music, sirens wailed. On the way home we had to drive up an entrance ramp to the freeway (the wrong way) because an underpass ahead was flooded. Trees were down and power was out all around us.
Because of the weather today, and perhaps reminded of the weather five years ago, Brubeck dedicates the first part of his concert to...the weather. We hear "Gone with the Wind," "Stormy Weather," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and "Over the Rainbow." Given Brubeck's many years of playing and his incalculably huge inner library of songs, he could probably play weather-related tunes for a week without repeating himself.
I recently listened to Time Out, so whenever Militello plays the sax, I can't help thinking of Paul Desmond. But when he plays the flute I'm here and now. I'm not normally a big fan of jazz flute but "Over the Rainbow" is an elegant arrangement of an old familiar tune and I like it very much.
Orchestra Hall seems packed to the rafters—sold out? It seems that everyone who didn't leave town for Memorial Day weekend is here. Why wouldn't they come to see an 88-year-old legend who's still composing, still performing, still influential? Being in his presence is a privilege and a pleasure.
I'm glad to be sitting in row 8 but I'm disappointed in the sound. Orchestra Hall hasn't yet figured out how to mike jazz performances. The Minnesota Orchestra sounds fantastic in this big, long box, but anything smaller is hit or miss. Tonight the piano is murky, the drums too loud, the saxophone too brassy, the bass very hard to hear unless Moore solos and even then it's faint.
Post-intermission: "Margie." A song I haven't heard for years. ("Margie, you've been my inspiration....") Such sweet swing. "My Fats," dedicated to Fats Waller. Brubeck smiles broadly during Militello's solo. On "Yesterdays," Brubeck's fingers fly across the keys on his solo opener; Militello plays like a 30-year-old.
Next, because it's Memorial Day weekend, the quartet plays a tune called "Weep No More," written by Brubeck in 1945 after the Battle of the Bulge ("I was there," he tells the crowd). It's solemn and beautiful, measured and deliberate, classical...are they also playing Bach? Jones uses mallets and his drums sound like distant thunder, or heavy fire.
No segue, no introduction, just a sudden rapturous lift-off into "Take Five," a song I could hear every day for the rest of my life and still enjoy. Militello has been part of Brubeck's quartet since 1982—26 years—so I guess I should get over Desmond. He tosses in a quote from "Blue Rondo a la Turk."
Two rows ahead of us, a young boy, maybe six or seven, bounces up and down in his seat in time to the music.
A single encore: a brief version of Brahms's Lullabye. Time to go. If we hurry, we can catch Gordy Johnson's final set at the Dakota.