|The Brubeck Brothers Band in Stamford|
On a hot, steamy Wednesday evening in July, the sons of piano jazz legend Dave Brubeck entertained a dedicated group of jazz lovers from the Columbus Park stage in downtown Stamford. The Brubeck Brothers band was the second major act in the Jazz in July series. The series brings top notch jazz artists to downtown Stamford. The previously free outdoor concerts now have a nominal ten dollar cover charge. The confusion over the entry charge could have conceivably prevented some people from attending the concert which appeared to be a free event since there was no assigned seating. The concert was somewhat sparsely attended. In addition the public parking garage took advantage of the event to charge a flat fee of seven dollars whether or not you were attending the event. This less than inviting extra charge sends a mixed message about Stamford's commitment to bringing jazz to the public in an open air event. If these extraneous charges discourage people from coming to these events, it will also discourage top rated performers from committing to play a venue like Stamford when they play to less than overflowing crowds.
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet featured Chris Brubeck on electric bass and trombone, Dan Brubeck on drums, Chuck Lamb on keyboards and Mike DeMicco on guitar. The first song I heard was a song written by their father Dave titled "Kathy's Waltz." Chris explained that their father was inspired to write this song seeing his daughter Kathy prance around as a young girl in her dance tutu. While most waltz's are in 3/4 time this one was played mostly in 4/4 . The song started out with DeMicco's delicate sounding guitar playing the melody and with Chris on electric bass. Pianist Lamb played a beautiful solo on the black baby grand as the Brubeck brother's carried the rhythm. Chris played a thoughtful bass solo and guitarist DeMicco finished playing the dancing melody to a bright ending.
Chris introduced the next tune, relating that it was the most recorded song of his father's vast repertoire.
" In Her Own Sweet Way." was written for Dave's wife Iola, who he was married to for an amazing seventy years. Chris played a mournfully, poignant trombone over the famous melody. Chris Brubeck is a superb trombone player who manages to evoke great emotion through his use of bellowing runs and emotionally laden slurs. Guitarist DeMicco's solo filled the space with beautifully fluid arpeggios. Pianist Lamb and drummer Dan Brubeck anchored the melody throughout.
Before the next song Chris talked about a song not often associated with their father titled "Jazzanians."
The "Jazzanians" was a group of disparate African musicians, some from normally warring tribes, that the eldest brother Darius Brubeck brought together to play music in a school where he taught music in Africa. The Afro-Cuban beat was driven to perfection by Dan Brubeck as he played the complex, dancing rhythm in the most stirring piece of the show. Pianist Lamb seemed to be released from his role as a complimentary musician and played a rousing solo building dramatically to a towering crescendo of sound. Guitarist DeMicco took his turn and was equally torrid in his approach to soloing.The climax of the tune was a series of bombastic, rhythmically diverse solos by the younger Brubeck who demonstrated a intuitive sense of drive and used his entire kit to the delight of the briefly mesmerized crowd.
The group did a beautiful ballad where Chris Brubeck played his most soulful solo on trombone. They followed with the Brubeck classic "Blue Rondo a la Turk," with Lamb, DeMicco and Brubeck playing the staccato melody rapidly in precise 9/8 time. The bluesy 4/4 break in the song, allowed DeMicco and Chris Brubeck to solo in an extended blues-tinged mode. DeMicco was particularly inventive during his solo. At times he ripped into a rock inspired tirade where he just shredded on his electric guitar in a very gutsy performance that gave the old classic a fusion-like energy.
The finale was topped off with the Paul Desmond classic "Take Five," a tune that single-handedly introduced odd time signatures to the general listening public. The composition's readily identifiable signature line immediately caught the attention of the audience. Chuck Lamb played a ruminative solo that introduced elements of Gershwin's "Summertime" into the piece, as he wandered in an exploratory excursion.The talented pianist delved into harmonically rich territory that was barely connected to the tune's driving 5/4 line. Guitarist DeMicco took his turn at soloing over the driving time signature that the Brubeck Brothers maintained throughout. Once DeMicco gets started he can create streams of guitar lines that just seem to flow like electrons arcing through the humidity drenched air.
The night air turned out to be appreciatively cooler than when it started, with the music being the most incendiary part of the evening's event. It is certainly laudable that Stamford is attempting to bring top named jazz artists to the City, one would hope that the confusion over the entry and parking fees will be cleared up before the next concert.
The sponsors, which include People's United Bank, Stamford Town Center, Purdue Pharma and Bud Light should be applauded for their generous support of the arts and jazz in particular. The series has a stellar line-up remaining with Poncho Sanchez bringing in his Latin-jazz band to the Park on Wednesday July 24th, the inimitable chanteuse Dianne Reeves brings her wonderful jazz vocals to the Park on Wednesday July 31 and the series ends with the incomparable pianist Chick Corea, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Marcus Gilmore and guitarist Charles Altura.
If we want these world class performers to continue to view Stamford as a vital and thriving community receptive to jazz artists then I truly hope music lovers from the area will turn out in droves to support these musicians and ensure the success of this effort.