Previously waxed by bandleaders Isham Jones and both Dorseys, "On the Alamo," positioned as leadoff track, offers a near-perfect example of Wild West Dave pummeling a tune and a club piano, pounding both down but not out or flat. Remember that original Alamo? Stone walls demolished by cannon fire, Crockett & Bowie and the rest shown no mercy? Dave, Paul, Ron and Joe mount the attack this time, and they are definitely on this "Alamo." Crotty and Dodge hold a rocking treadmill pace (strict time was all that Dave required of his early rhythm guys), while Desmond soars above the walls, reconnoitering like a strange meadowlark for a couple of minutes before retreating in the face of what slowly becomes Brubeck's relentless barrage. Dave alternates between lyrical and heavy-weighted, riding on the rhythm at times and radically across it at others – hanging back, speeding up, striking single notes or block chords, staying harmonic, then striding into atonal territory, mixing the melody in with Monkish stomps and Classical Modernist chords, shaping a 6-minute take-no-prisoners solo completely reflective of his unique, love-it-or-hate-him, keyboard-as-drum-kit approach. This locked-hands mélange of Manne and Milhaud, Jeru and Jamal, Bach and Bartok (and bar backtalk too) was the pre-Time signature of Brubeck the no-BeBop, no-Powell nonpareil. (The track then ends peacefully with some fine Brubeck/Desmond counterpoint.)
Dave mellowed much over the many years; he focused more on composing, rounded off the rough corners and edges of his style, wound up playing more all-of-a-piece solos. Me, I miss the early iconoclast of the keyboard and am thankful he left us this "Alamo" worth remembering.
February 02, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: on the alamo
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