Dave Brubeck: Perdido

"This is incredible music, jazz or whatever," a reviewer wrote in Down Beat when Jazz at Oberlin first hit the stores. To which I respond: "Whatever!" and turn up the volume. You are advised to do the same. Brubeck and Desmond recorded live in many settings during the 1950s and 1960s, but this 1953 concert ranks among their finest moments.

An odd dynamic imparted a piquant flavor to the proceedings: the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, founded in 1865, was a magnet for talented instrumentalists, but no jazz was studied within its walls back in 1953. Even Milhaud or Bartok would have been dicey, but bringing Milhaud's eccentric student Mr. Brubeck to campus was close to heresy. Nor were jazz concerts on college campuses common back in this era -- indeed, Brubeck did more than anyone else to pioneer this concept with events such as the Oberlin date. As a result, Brubeck & Co. had an audience packed with aspiring musicians who must have felt they were witnessing some aural samizdat that had somehow been smuggled into Finney Chapel. This serene Romanesque building had once featured Rachmaninov, but now it was "Man, you can't rock enough!"

More than 50 years have elapsed, but you can still pick up the powerful vibes on this recording. The audience is energized and the band feeds off their enthusiasm. Desmond is very loose yet also keyed up, and he stretches out with an electrifying solo. Brubeck follows with a wild improvisation, teasing with bits of polytonality, full of allusions to other standards, sometimes tinkling, more often booming with grandiose two-fisted chords. When Desmond returns to engage in counterpoint with the pianist, the chemistry between the duo is magical.

July 05, 2008 · 0 comments


Tito Rodriguez: Perdido

The Tito Rodriguez band is not as well known as those of his compatriots Machito and Tito Puente, but cognoscenti will assure you that this band more than deserves a seat on the pantheon of Latin jazz orchestras known as "The Big Three." This album features standards arranged in the mambo style that made Rodriguez famous. The open form on "Perdido" allows for ample solo space, of which the guest performers avail themselves expertly. Of Brookmeyer, Cohn, Sims and Terry, it is the last whose offering succeeds most effectively in bridging the gap between the clave-based foundation set down by the rhythm section and the "straight-ahead" bebop phraseology in which they are more well-versed. Terry's attention to the placement and internal accents of his solo lines shows a true affinity for the Latin jazz aesthetic.

March 07, 2008 · 0 comments


Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie: Perdido

After taping himself in concert with an all-star quintet, Charles Mingus listened to playbacks. The group was fabulous, with Diz & Bird in top form. His own bass, however, had been woefully under-recorded. Solution? Overdub a new bassline. Result? Calamitous. Given mid-1950s technology, Mingus #2 easily overpowered but could neither eliminate nor be precisely synchronized with Mingus #1. Consequently, his disconcerting duel with himself maddeningly muddles both tempo and harmony. Fantasy’s 12-CD Complete Debut Recordings (1992) reproduces the undoctored tape, but all other releases use the corrupted version, making its revisionist history definitive for most listeners. Mingus should’ve left bad enough alone.

October 27, 2007 · 0 comments


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