26 May 2008

Before the Door Closed

I missed out on seeing Elvis. Missed out on the Beatles. Missed Ellington, Hendrix, Charles, Monroe, Tormé, Wills and the mighty Led Zeppelin.

But I got to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet last night.

Dave Brubeck is 87. He walked slowly onto the stage, took some time to stand up from his seat and spoke with a weary voice. But he then did things that on-stage grand piano had never experienced from anyone else. I don't know enough about arrangement to know where his age forces compromises, but I heard no shortage of complexity, subtlety, improvisation, touch and presentation that can only come from a long life of work.

The other members of the DBQ, Bobby Militello on alto and flute, Michael Moore on bass and Randy Jones on drums, each had ample time to shine, both while soloing and while collaborating. The set went from the eclectic blues to Walleresque boogie woogie to the cool West Coast sound that Brubeck defined. Brubeck fought under Patton at the Battle of the Bulge and the fact that it's Memorial Day was not lost on his performance as he pulled out a 1945 composition, written after he witnessed the brutality of war, that his veteran accompanists were heretofore unfamiliar.

Always with a brief and to-the-point story, always choosing songs that fit the scene and always with obvious reverence for the other three men on stage, Brubeck reminds music fans what it is to be simultaneously passionate and professional; two things not lost on the audience.

Four old men, gray hair, in tuxedos, with simple lighting blew the doors off every rock concert I've ever seen.

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