Dave Brubeck: Koto Song


Koto Song


Dave Brubeck (piano)


Buried Treasures (Columbia/Legacy CK 65777)

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Dave Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), Joe Morello (drums).

Composed by Dave Brubeck


Recorded: live in Mexico City, May 12-14, 1967


Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

Already popular out West, Dave Brubeck headed East first to Oberlin, then NYC, and then Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Far East all the way to Tokyo and Osaka, which eventually inspired the all-originals album Jazz Impressions of Japan. One exotic tune from it in particular became a regular feature for the quartet, and then Dave solo and beyond: his haunting and beautiful "Koto Song," which mimicked the sound of that multi-stringed, zither-like instrument made famous by earlier koto master Michio Miyagi and his disciple Kimio Eto (who recorded an album with Bud Shank on flute).

Brubeck's original was as delicate as a lily floating on a pond, or maybe more like petals on a gently flowing stream; later versions became a bit more robust. An arresting quartet performance appears on 1999's Buried Treasures (unreleased live tracks from a '67 tour of Mexico). Rippling piano (over toms for a moment) very quickly gives way to the airy almost-blues of Paul Desmond above a walking 4/4, the Orient left behind now, and Dave fallen silent for a time. But his piano flows back in, single-noting, slowing the tempo notably, the solo adrift somewhere between East and West then a few cymbal hits announce a brief spate of patterns edging into dissonance yet those are soon abandoned for the lovely demi-koto melody once more and you realize that 7 minutes have passed like 3, and the twain was well met.

Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher


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