19 APR 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals (Fantasy) is a small, obscure and fascinating entry in Dave Brubeck's group catalog, comprising a series of octet sessions that feature some of Brubeck's first work with Paul Desmond (alto sax) and Cal Tjader manning not vibes but the drum kit, recorded in and around San Francisco throughout the late 1940s. Often overlooked, the original issue of Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals returns to vinyl circulation just in time for Record Store Day, a national celebration of record boutiques, on April 21.
Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals presented eight tunes on 10" vinyl in 1956. [The compilation Dave Brubeck Octet (Original Jazz Classics, 1991) packaged these eight with another 10.] These eight tracks are made so distinctive through challenging arrangements that reassemble standards into shapes that are anything but familiar.
Brubeck's arrangement attacks "The Way You Look Tonight" from multiple directions, with different instruments playing different phrases of the melody (sometimes simultaneously). Brubeck's piano worries a four-note pulse into "What Is This Thing Called Love" and leaps like a Monk-ish colt (or a colt-ish Monk) into Van Kriedt's "Fugue on Bop Themes," which jumps with the joy of collective New Orleans improvisation within the fugue form. For "Loved Walked In" and "Let's Fall in Love," the octet rocks uptempo blues, swinging like a larger Count Basie big band.
Each number is so brief and sounds so similar to the rest that their overall effect creates one continuous, yet continuously changing, brilliant piece of music -- perfect to listen to after purchasing it at a boutique record store. To learn more about Record Store Day, visit www.recordstoreday.com.