Dave Brubeck: Watusi Drums
Dave Brubeck (piano)
Time In (Columbia/Legacy CK 85994)
Composed by Dave Brubeck.
Recorded: New York, September 20, 1965
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
As the story goes, recounted by Dave Brubeck in his liner notes for the Quartet's In Europe album, he had written a number to feature tricky-time master Joe Morello, based on some half-remembered African rhythm. At first the tune had a changeable title, "Drums Along the …", with the final word filled in on stage, naming whatever river flowed near the city the four were playing in, from the Thames to the Vistula. Then in Iraq (yes, there were such tours), Dave heard again the original African recording and realized he had channeled some Watusi tribal music. So the "rivers" disappeared and the right name was affixed.
But the music flows on and on, in bubbling 6/4 time, no matter what the title. While the live performance on In Europe clocks in at 8 minutes – too much of a good thing – the shorter version appended to the CD reissue of Time In offers solid evidence that less can be more. This simplified studio take (with Paul Desmond silent) moves out right from the start, Morello's rippling, perpetual-motion power and Eugene Wright's stalwart walk freeing Dave to comment and punctuate, to dance all over the piano and even play some work-song blues, till the tuned-up trio engine chugs to a halt. Just 2+ minutes but well-nigh perfect.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher