Double Live From the US and UK
This two-CD set is the result of Brubeck Quartet concerts at the Washington National Cathedral in 1995 and London's Royal Festival Hall in 1998. Alto saxophonist Bobby Militello and drummer Randy Jones appear on both CDs; they are joined by bassist Jack Six on the American tracks and Alec Dankworth on the U.K.-recorded tracks. Each group is in fine form, with Brubeck's playing ranging from lyrical and linear to striding, percussive and block-chorded. The long polyrhythmic piano choruses of yesteryear are pared down to a few references here and there, but Brubeck still constructs his solos formally and climactically.
Militello has the unenviable task of playing alto in a group whose initial fame depended a great deal on the late alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. There is a bit of Desmondlike lilt and sweetness in "Body and Soul," which opens the American CD, and later on "Don't Worry About Me." But Militello is secure in his own right, as numerous other examples show. (Check out the two versions of Desmond's "Take Five.") He seems to have taken a cue from the leader on how to contrast simple and complex ideas and expression and how to structure a solo toward a satisfying destination. Jones and the bassists are perfect for this latter-day group.
Brubeck introduces the British set with a bit of stride on "Margie." On "Exactly Like You" he sets a laid-back tempo and sits right there in the pocket for the whole performance, letting the bluesy groove sink in. On "Cherokee," from the American set, he romps uptempo, climbing in the left hand and hitting Basie chords in the right. On the two versions of "Take Five," he digs deep in the tune's minor-key vamp and comes up with new things to say after all these years.