Lucid Culture


Happy 90th Birthday, Dave Brubeck!

Today Dave Brubeck turns ninety, and jazz fans everywhere are celebrating. And so is his record label. Along with the new Legacy of a Legend compilation just released today (which we haven’t heard yet, at least in this particular configuration – Brubeck handpicked the tracks to coincide with the new Clint Eastwood-produced documentary Dave Brubeck: Legacy of a Legend), Sony has released two new box sets containing five albums each from his classic period in the 1950s, many with his quartet featuring Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello. The first set collects the “Time” albums: Time Out, Time Further Out, Time Changes, Time In and Countdown: Time in Outer Space. The second is more eclectic: the solo Brubeck Plays Brubeck; the lush, richly orchestrated, vastly underrated Brandenburg Gate Revisited; the irresistibly romantic Jazz Impressions of New York; the live set Jazz Goes to College, and the covers album Gone With the Wind.

They’re also all downloadable from the usual places. But for the fan who who’s not willing to settle for an mp3, who insists on getting the bonus tracks (among them an irresistible It’s a Raggy Waltz from a period Carnegie Hall concert on Time Further Out, and a couple of surprising outtakes on Time In), what are the options? At this point in time, vinyl copies of the more obscure of these albums are hard, sometimes impossible to find, and sell for collector prices. The obvious questions is, are these box sets worth it?

Surprisingly, yes. Take Brubeck Goes to College, for example. The 1954 album was recorded in mono, with the audience mixed higher than would have been usual, one suspects, because it was being marketed as a party record to what was felt to be an unsophisticated college crowd. This digital version is a vast improvement, benefiting not only from an overall reduction in extraneous noise but also a welcome bass boost. Then there’s Brandenburg Gate Revisited. One of Brubeck’s early third-stream albums, a majestically symphonic reworking of several of his most popular themes, it wasn’t well-received at the time, didn’t sell well and was out of print for a long time, making what vinyl that remains ridiculously pricy. A side-by-side comparison reveals the new remastering job to be a resounding success: it has the seamlessness of a vinyl record. The rest of the digital versions hold their own as well. And you have to salute the idea of marketing all the Time albums together: it’s a time warp more than anything else, a journey that might be sentimental to some and great fun for those who revel in the music of the Mad Men era but weren’t there to enjoy it the first time around.

December 6, 2010 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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