The pianist and composer Dave Brubeck had more than his share of Great Moments : he was the first to sell a million copies of a jazz instrumental ; he was one of Time magazine's rare jazz cover subjects; he has played for presidents and popes; composed everything from classic jazz themes to symphonies; and the tune of his most famous hit, Take Five, is familiar to music lovers, from eight-year-olds to octogenarians.
Brubeck's first Great Jazz Moment is one that has been overlooked though – the making of his quartet's 1953 live album, Jazz at Oberlin. Not only did this dynamic gig reveal Brubeck's vivacious creative relationship with west coast alto saxophonist Paul Desmond to a new and youthful audience, confirming the then 29-year-old Desmond as a sensational sax improviser, it also indicated new directions for jazz that didn't slavishly mirror bebop, and even hinted at free-jazz piano techniques still years away from realisation. The significance of Jazz at Oberlin didn't stop with the music either. The enthusiasm of the college audience, audible throughout the album, marked Brubeck's eager adoption by America's (predominantly white) youth — a welcome that soon extended around the world, and brought the pianist chart hits for a rhythmically intricate instrumental jazz in a period in which the newly emerged rock'n'roll was carrying all before it.
Growing up on a California ranch, Brubeck learned classical piano from his mother and switched from veterinarian studies to music after his first college year. A conscientious objector in the second world war, he was given an army band to run instead, studied with the classical composer Darius Milhaud and founded his first quartet with Paul Desmond in 1951.
What came to be known as Brubeck's "classic quartet" (comprising of Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and the astonishing polyrhythmic drummer Joe Morello) was still three years away when the Oberlin concert was recorded, though drummer Ron Crotty and bassist Lloyd Davis played the show with brisk empathy. At the same time the repertoire — variations on standard songs or bop anthems — gave no hint as to Brubeck's subsequent fascination with adventurous but very catchy time-signatures like 5/4 and 9/8, not to mention his adaptations of classical forms like rondos and fugues. Oberlin did, however, open a window on the core creative relationship that would soon ignite all those elements ("Take Five" was a collaboration, developed by Brubeck from a Paul Desmond theme), and revealed a wealth of harmonic and rhythmic references in the leader's own playing that would change the language of jazz.
In the 1950s, some hardcore jazz fans disliked Brubeck's music, seeing it as Europeanised and overly formal, something that flattered middle-class audiences but sold out its more fundamental virtues of soul, swing and blues. But from the late 1960s on, as jazz opened up to influences from other genres and cultures, sectarianism receded, and Brubeck began to be credited as a visionary. He was seen as an artist who took jazz into stimulating new contexts without destroying its essence.
Source : http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2010/jan/11/dave-brubeck-jazz-at-oberlin
Jazz at Oberlin
1 These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You) (Marvell, Strachey) 6:33
2 Perdido (Tizol) 7:52
3 Stardust (Carmichael, Parish) 6:30
4 The Way You Look Tonight (Kern, Fields) 7:51
5 How High the Moon (Lewis) 9:11
Dave Brubeck - p
Paul Desmond - as
Ron Crotty - b
Lloyd Davis - dr
Recorded in Finney Chapel, Oberlin College ; March 2, 1953