On the 14th of December, 60 years ago to the day, Dave Brubeck released one of the greatest collections of compositions of all time. The 7-track Time Out is an exploration of metric complexity, with each track taking on an unfamiliar time signature and turning it into a work of accessible, melodic genius. With Paul Desmond on saxophone and Brubeck himself on piano, the album wasn’t an amateur affair.
Tonight, London’s iconic Jazz Café plays host to Brubeck’ son, Darius, and his own quartet. They’re playing through Time Out from start to finish, honouring the beautiful melodies and inspired chord sequences, while each member puts their own spin on the improvised sections. The second half of the show explores Darius’ own Live In Poland, showing off his own compositional skill and performance ability. It doesn’t match that of his father (maybe the two sets should have swapped in their order…) but that wasn’t the focus of this evening anyway.
Kicking off with the immortal ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk’ the tightness of this band comes through in full force. Brubeck is able to play the aggressive main 9/8 pattern just as well as the relaxed swung pattern over which the solos come. On saxophone is Dave O’Higgins, world renowned for his playing ability. While he hits every note, his soloing was lacking in some of the soul Paul Desmond was able to inject 60 years ago. ‘Not many inherit a hit’, Brubeck says of the album after the opening track concludes.
‘Strange Meadow Lark’ and ‘Three To Get Ready’ push things even further forward, with the delicate birdsong inspiration of the former being explained by Brubeck before starting the track. His own improvisation is extraordinarily like his fathers, whether this came naturally or he adds it in to appease fans and the origins of the tracks it’s hard to tell, but the block chords that bounce with syncopation above the harmonic patterns are reminiscent of an age of jazz that barely even exists these days. The bass solo in the second number was the highlight of the show so far, though, with young British bassist Matt Ridley exploring the full range of his instrument.
Not letting the audience go without interesting facts for a single second, Brubeck introduces ‘Kathy’s Waltz’ by explaining how his sister (Cathy) had her name spelt wrong on the album sleeve and it was never changed. The band perfect the polymeter that comes towards the end of the track, creating a huge sound for an acoustic four-piece, channelling the days of Dave himself. While ‘Everybody’s Jumpin’’ and ‘Pick Up Sticks’ are arguably the weakest point of a phenomenal album, their relaxed bounce makes the Jazz Café dance.
‘Take Five’ should have been a little earlier in the setlist if the album’s original track-list is anything to go by, but Darius cleverly positions it towards the end, using the biggest selling jazz single of all time as an encore of sorts. Wesley Gibbens’ drum solo is masterful, using his tiny kit to its fullest potential, and pushing the limits of 5/4 with his rhythmic playing. O’Higgins fares much better on this track, injecting a breathy journey through this iconic Paul Desmond melody.
As mentioned above, the second half of the show was less impressive. While expertly performed, the pieces were far less familiar and at times lacking in the compositional brilliance of Brubeck. That said, the delightfully happy and positive Darius maintained an impressive hold over his wonderful band, making sure that classic jazz remains relevant in the modern era.
Considering the amount of young people in the audience tonight, the 60 years since Time Out was released obviously didn’t allow it to age a day.