Quartet San Francisco: Strange Meadowlark
Quartet San Francisco
QSF Plays Brubeck (ViolinJazz 106)
Composed by Dave Brubeck. Arranged by Jeremy Cohen.
Recorded: Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, CA, July 31-August 3, 2009
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
One of the best aspects of jazz is that it constantly refutes any ongoing assumptions about its essence and nature. Think you can define this music? Just try and soon enough, someone will come along with a new style that is undoubtedly jazz, but not within your definition. And if the Turtle Island and Kronos quartets haven't shaken your concept of what string quartets can do, just listen to Quartet San Francisco's CD of Dave Brubeck compositions for a fresh approach.
Brubeck's "Strange Meadowlark" was the only tune in 4/4 time on his album Time Out and in 2001, violinist Jeremy Cohen created an arrangement for Quartet San Francisco based on the slow outer sections of Brubeck's classic recording. For their new all-Brubeck CD, Cohen rewrote and expanded the arrangement to include the middle swing section and to incorporate the improvised solos by Brubeck and Paul Desmond. The QSF is very comfortable with this material and there's a wonderful rhythmic looseness in their version. And while Desmond's and Brubeck's solos are played note-for-note, the way that the notes are played is quite different from the original recording. Desmond and Brubeck used fairly marked articulation in their solos, but violinist Cohen and violist Keith Lawrence use a lazy legato sound and slides in creating their own interpretation. Cohen takes Desmond's solo for himself, but Brubeck's solo ideas jump back and forth between violin and viola, offering a fine contrast in instrumental timbres. The final melody chorus, originally solo piano, is orchestrated for the full quartet for a superb and fulfilling ending. While the approach to this tune might not be to all tastes, it is certainly worth a listen.
Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe