Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967; Brubeck And His Rhythm Section Wow The Vienna Audience As A Three Piece

Photo courtesy of the artist

Previously unreleased in the USA, Brubeck Editions has released Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967.  Beyond the excellent sound quality, this concert was a true rarity in that this lineup of personnel usually performed in a quartet. For this show at the Konzerthaus, saxophonist Paul Desmond missed the group's flight from Hamburg to Vienna. In light of the situation, Brubeck decided to go on with the show as a three piece with Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass. The recording that night was all set, and it was fortuitous that this show was captured, as this may be the only recording of these musicians performing together as a trio.
As much as I love Desmond's composition "Take 5" along with his sax work, the trio makes good use of his space for their solos, improvisations, and such. The music is spectacular as well.

The following excerpt from the press release details the performance, track by track.

The trio sizzles with a ferocious energy right out of the gate with a spirited take on “St. Louis Blues”. For chorus after chorus, Brubeck offers up some of the finest examples of his signature chordal and rhythmic performing, while interspersing soulful, lyrical melodies in his right hand. About five minutes into the track during his bass solo, Gene quotes “I’m Going to Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair”, likely a joke for Brubeck and Morello referring to their missing bandmate, Desmond. The band continues with “One Moment Worth Years”, on which Brubeck and Wright’s touch can be described as charming, inventive and elegant. 

Swanee River” features an up-tempo syncopated groove that sets up a very polyrhythmic and high-spirited interpretation of the Stephen Foster composition that the trio had previously recorded alongside Desmond on the 1959 album Gone With the Wind. Notably, Brubeck engages in some very spirited trades with drummer Joe Morello. The trio calms things down with a sweet and tender version of “La Paloma Azul”, a Mexican folk tune rearranged with an ingenious polyphonic twist that appears during the closing melodic statement. 

The crowd immediately recognizes “Someday My Prince Will Come”, and the piano leads the group on an intense romp that challenges the underlying time from the rhythm section with an elastic piano solo superimposing 3 against 2. As Chris Brubeck indicates “Dave bends the time to the near breaking point, a musical drama that an audience can really feel and follow.” The album concludes with a tune known throughout the world – “Take the A Train”.

As Chris Brubeck espouses, “I think if our dad were alive to hear this Brubeck Trio recording now, he’d be flashing his famous big smile. He would be extremely proud to hear how, more than half a century ago, he, Gene and Joe got thrown a curve ball and knocked it out of the park!”

This recording reminds me of a Ray Charles concert that was also recorded under unusual circumstances. It also took place on a November night in Europe, in this case at the Olympia in Paris on the occasion of Charles' 70th birthday. When he performed, it was normally with his big band including backup singers. When his group tried to fly from Lisbon to Paris, an air traffic controller strike interfered with the travel plans. So, like Brubeck, Charles went on with the show backed only by his core band of guitar, bass, and drums. The wonderfully rare result was captured on audio and video (released on DVD as Ray Charles At The Olympia on November 22, 2000).  

  CD/Digital Track Listing: 

  1. St. Louis Blues (W. C. Handy, Arr. by Dave Brubeck) 8:55
  2. One Moment Worth Years (Dave Brubeck) 10:10
  3. Swanee River (S. Foster, Arr. by Dave Brubeck) 7:37
  4. La Paloma Azul (Traditional, Arr. by Dave Brubeck) 6:09
  5. Someday My Prince Will Come (F. Churchill & L. Morey) 5:28
  6. Take the A Train (B. Strayhorn) 4:16

Listen to "St. Louis Blues" from the concert:


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