Set 1: St. Louis Blues was recorded in the Netherlands in 1961. Bassist Eugene Wright swings like a metronome to keep time on this one.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again since I’ve been writing about walkable urban places this week. My vision of the good life is a neighborhood where you can walk down the street to a funky little club like the Vanguard in Greenwich Village, Snug Harbor in Faubourg Mariny, or Café Delmas on Rue Mouffetard. Drop in any Friday afternoon for engaging conversation, a little bistro cooking, and live jazz. Maybe there’s a trio, maybe just a self-reliant piano man with a tip jar pounding out the stride. Café Mouffe is the place, and Dave Brubeck fits the bill.
Brubeck turned 87 yesterday. When he turned 80, I heard him say in an NPR Jazz Profile that his vision of the good life was playing a little stride piano every day. Dave, I hope you’re getting your wish!
Set 2: Take Five. This performance was recorded in 1961. You won’t see much of Brubeck, but you’ll hear him. If your ear is accustomed to the 1959 hit recording, Paul Desmond’s improvisation here sounds freshly lilting. And there’s a swinging drum solo by Joe Morello. His animation (and horn-rimmed glasses) remind me of my brother-in-law Harold, who was pounding the skins in a regional jazz band around the same time. I was six and thought he was cool. Still do. I have a vivid memory of Diana and Harold taking me to an outdoor Brubeck concert around this time, but they don’t remember it at all. Am I channeling some alternate reality?
Set 3: If that’s not enough, here’s a later Take 5 performance, maybe from the 70s. Brubeck has wild, Beethoven-like hair, and Desmond looks avuncular like Mr. Rogers. Hard to believe he was a junkie.