A new and excellent music guest blog by Ruddy Adam.
Musical Genius from Dave Brubeck & Company
Here, with Dave Brubeck at what I believe was his apex, and three of the greatest musicians ever to play their respective instruments, we enter a realm rarely entered by mere mortals, because we are able to listen to music that perhaps only ten to twenty people who have ever lived could play.
A child prodigy and trained composer, the late Dave Brubeck is one of the best composers, pianists, and Jazz leaders ever. Over his meek and humble 92-years he produced numerous concertos, musicals, oratorios, and over 1000 Jazz compositions. As a Jazz leader he collected the most masterful musicians of his day to play in his groups. Truly, they flocked to him, begging to play with him.
Drummer Alan Dawkins played for five-years with Brubeck, having taken the great Joe Morello’s place in `68. He also played for Bill Evans and other great Jassists, and was an innovative teacher for years.
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Gerry Mulligan is perhaps the greatest baritone saxophonist ever. Also quite innovative, he organized a quartet that included trumpeter Chet Baker—which excluded a piano. That is still a heralded Jazz group, and we’ll be sending some of their pieces out over time.
The album of Brubeck’s exceptional concert at the Berlin Philharmonic in 1970 did not come out until three-years afterwards in 1973. Miss Buck, however, received a reel for her reel-to-reel deck shortly after the concert in 1970, along with a letter describing the concert from a fellow musicologist in Europe.
Her friend who attended the concert was astonished at what she had heard. She informed Miss Buck that the upper echelon of music luminaries were in attendance, and they were all aflutter at what they had heard. Brubeck and Co. were the talk of the European intelligentsia.
After twelve of us who were all close friends, and who had studied under Miss Buck (three were still with her), had heard the entire reel alone with her, she had all twelve of us gather in her music room one evening so we could all listen together the concert at the Berlin Philharmonic. This she did quite often, and it was always a real treat for us all.
What I remember of that evening more than anything is the best musician among us, Janet, who was a superb pianist, flutist, clarinetist, and pretty much whatever she wanted to play, and who went on to play in several orchestras with the orchestra and as an instrumental soloist, lying on the floor and moaning, “No! No! It can’t be! Nobody can do that! I’m terrible! I may as well quit!” All the time tears flooding down her cheeks.
The rest of us did not take it that way—at all. We weren’t that taken with our own playing, and several of us had given up playing altogether for other pursuits by then, to assume that we were anything like the masters we were listening to, or that we ever would be. Besides, Miss Buck stressed humility!
Poor Janet had to be consoled on the spot, with quips like, “Oh, you’ll be better than they are in a few years.” “You really think so,” she replied. None of us did, but we all loved Janet and lies for the purpose of consoling those you love are sometimes called for. It worked.
Having already sent out “New Orleans” from this set, certainly everyone is ready for more astonishing music. No surprise there!
In this piece Brubeck wanted to compose not only a unique piece, but one deserving of his favorite Biblical Passages. Seems to me he accomplished that.
After a beginning combined with bass and piano playing counterpoint and Brubeck’s one-handed inharmonic jabs, at 1:40 you get a quick view of what is to come when Brubeck gives us several bars of inharmonic music. At 2:00 more inharmonic one-handed jabs, and then mixes of harmonic and inharmonic counterpoint.
Something Brubeck had no idea of knowing, but his ear had to tell him it worked, is something neurologists have found out about both out-of-tone and inharmonic music: when either one is splashed about on purpose in a piece by an excellent musician or singer, it stimulates the right-brain.
An entire piece (especially listened to on a regular basis), however, of either out-of-tone or inharmonic music tortures the whole-brain, causing the brain to pump out negative chemicals and thereby causing both mental and physical anguish. This is why I’ve been warning people for years about listening to country music, because as a rule, its singers sing terribly out-of-tone.
The type of Jazz that Brubeck & Co. are playing is the best music to stimulate the whole-brain. Add to that all of what these musicians are able to do that almost no one can do, and you have something very special that your brain will appreciate.
Jack Six’s bass plays about five bars as an adagio to begin the piece; then Brubeck enters playing inharmonic jabs for a few bars. At that point, I doubt any right-brain in the terrestrial realm could imagine what was ahead.
After a full inharmonic build, at 3:00 the group makes a time change and begins to play what would be the Second Leg of the piece in perfect harmony and beauty, with the occasional inharmonic sound from Brubeck. The cooldown (the Third Leg) at 4:00 leads to even more surprises as Mulligan’s baritone sax eases in at about 4:30.
Now, pay attention to those sax sounds, because they are not scale notes. Mulligan is playing vibrato at about 1/8 off the scale. Yet, the sound is pure and in harmony with the whole piece, although eerie at times—and purposefully so.
Always the unselfish leader, Brubeck allows Mulligan’s sax, Dawson’s drums, and Six’s bass to finish out the piece, with Brubeck’s piano complimenting ever so slightly.
Let me note that very left-brain dominant people often do not tolerate inharmonic sounds very well. So if you find yourself having a sour feeling and need more order, remind yourself that it takes a tremendous amount of talent to play discordant sounds for a bar or two or a jab or two, and then move directly back to concordant music. At least if you appreciate that, you may be able to enjoy the piece, for the sake of aiding your brain.
El, for example, listens to these type of pieces, enjoys them—and definitely appreciates them—but will inform you in an instant that she does not enjoy discordant sounds in music. She wants 100% order, lefty that she is.
Perfect piece to honor the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Enjoy and be grateful that we have the ability to hear this kind of musical genius.
“Blessed Are the Poor,” by Dave Brubeck’s Trio, Along with Saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan, at the Berlin Philharmonic, 1970 (9:00) Live & Raw
Dave Brubeck Trio,Gerry Mulligan – Blessed are the Poor (The Sermon on the Mount)