Thursday, May 29, 2008

Classified Brothers

By the Brubeck Brothers

The saying goes: like father, like son. The Brubeck family has frequently collaborated in jazz contexts, but on their latest release, Classified, the Brubeck Brothers, bassist/trombonist Chris and drummer Dan (sans brother Darius) again followed in their celebrated father Dave’s footsteps with a fluid fusion of jazz and classical idioms.

While Dave Brubeck’s jazz-classical pieces often were of a sacred nature, involving large ensembles and choral arrangements, Classified is more in the tradition of chamber music, of both the jazz and classical varieties. The first seven tracks are highly melodic, swinging jazz. For the three movement suite Vignettes for Nonette and the elder Brubeck’s classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” the Brubeck Brothers augment their quartet with the Imani Winds.

The CD kicks off with the easy-going “Good Question,” giving ample solo space to the non-Brubecks in the quartet, Chuck Lamb on piano and Mike Demicco on guitar. The following “Cool on the Coast” evokes the West Coast Cool scene their father was not really a part of, but is often lumped in with.

Chris Brubeck doubles on trombone for “Dance of the Shadows” and “Friends Beyond Time,” blending with Demicco’s guitar for an intriguing combination of tonal colorings. “Dance” is the more up-tempo of the two, but the entire program has an upbeat vibe, which never lets the mood or the energy flag.

Throughout Chris Brubeck’s Vignettes suite, there is a regular ebb and flow between more classical sounding passages for the Winds and more swinging stretches for the jazz rhythm section, but the transitions are smoothly realized. Not surprisingly, the third movement is the most insistent, with the Winds sounding particularly swinging, and featuring a well integrated drum solo for Dan Brubeck. It concludes with “Rondo,” a major part of the Brubeck family legacy and a highlight of the session. Even with the fully orchestrated sound of the Winds, the jazz solos are downright down-home, with Chris Brubeck going gutbucket on trombone.

Classified keeps a good groove on, even when blending jazz and classical with the Winds. It would be good summer spin for general listeners, but has plenty of nutritional value for experienced jazz ears.

(Remember tonight is the Jazz Foundation of America’s Great Night in Harlem benefit concert. Proceeds go to a great cause so consider attending. Even if you don’t have a reservation, I imagine if you show up with money, something can be worked out.)