"We traveled by bus through Great Britain for a week, from town to town, and I thought the rides were awfully long. When I complained, the promoters explained that next week everyone would be in a London flat, to which I responded 'That would be sharp.'" —Dave Brubeck, from the liner notes by Bob Blumenthal
Following on the success of his historically resonant solo piano recording, Private Brubeck Remembers (2004), the most widely recognized and respected figure in piano jazz of the last half-century adds another chapter to his prolific Telarc discography with the cleverly-titled quartet recording, London Flat, London Sharp. Celebrating his 85th birthday, Dave Brubeck continues to push the creative envelope with this new release.
On London Flat, London Sharp, pianist Brubeck, alto sax/flute player Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore and drummer Randy Jones elegantly perform ten cuts of mostly Brubeck originals.
They open the set with the title track, written in 1998 at the time of the concerts that produced Brubeck's 40th Anniversary Tour of the U.K.. It's followed by "To Sit and Dream," a medium tempo tune featuring Militello, then "The Time of Our Madness," which made its first appearance on that same 40th Anniversary disc.
"Steps to Peace," the album's only non-Brubeck composition, was written by Derrill Bodley for his daughter, who was on Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crash landed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. One of Brubeck's most frequently recorded works, "Forty Days" depicts Christ's period of solitude in the desert. Other highlights include "Cassandra," "Unisphere," "Yes, We All Have Our Cross to Bear" and "Mr. Fats."
The closer, "Ballad of the Rhine," was written on the day that Brubeck's army unit crossed the Rhine in 1945 and was inspired by the rhythm created as the tanks and trucks hit the pontoon bridges. Originally titled "We Crossed the Rhine," it can be heard in its original form on Private Brubeck Remembers.
One of the living legends of jazz, Dave Brubeck's career is studded with milestones. Born in 1920 in Concord, California, he majored in music at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, and following a tour of duty in World War II, returned to Europe to study under the French composer Darius Milhaud, after whom his first son is named. The Dave Brubeck Trio, featuring Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, captured the Best New Instrumental Group in both Down Beat and Metronome, and heralded the countless awards and distinctions that would follow. In 1954, Brubeck graced the cover of Time magazine and was credited with ushering in the rebirth of jazz. Time Out, his groundbreaking recording of 1960, yielded two singles, "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," perhaps the most recognized melodies in the entire jazz lexicon. Time Out earned the Brubeck Quartet and modern jazz its first gold record.
London Flat, London Sharp contains a bit of everything that continues to make Brubeck's music so appealing: great new tunes, great old tunes, intellectual and emotional stimulation, sonic impressions with real-world resonance, and virtuosic execution. It confirms that this living legend—honored most recently with a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland—maintains the energy and creative spirit that musicians one-quarter his age envy.