Park Avenue South
Dave Brubeck, in his 80s, maintains the energy, zeal and good humor that have characterized his work for more than 50 years. He is on the road in a schedule that would tire a person of any age, but on this CD it is apparent that time-3/4, 4/4 and 5/4-is on his side. Park Avenue South comes from two nights of recording before audiences at a Starbucks coffee house in Manhattan. We don't know whether Brubeck used his frequent tactic of stimulating his colleagues by launching into standards they don't expect, but freshness and spontaneity of surprise nonetheless saturate "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Love Is Just Around the Corner," "On a Slow Boat to China" and "Show Me the Way to Go Home."
Bobby Militello, whom subtlety rarely visits, is engagingly boisterous in his alto saxophone solos, but the restraint of his flute work is notable as he blends with Michael Moore's arco bass on "Elegy," a new Brubeck piece of lyrical sadness. Moore has splendid solos on "Elegy," "Love for Sale" and "Don't Forget Me," a recent Brubeck composition in three-quarter time. In their power and elegance as a rhythm team, Moore and drummer Randy Jones provide stability during Brubeck's spikiest solo adventures.
When critics attacked the pianist for heavy-handedness in the days of the classic Brubeck quartet, Paul Desmond's defenses of his partner included praise for his skill as an accompanist. There's a convincing demonstration of that ability in Brubeck's comping behind Militello on "I Love Vienna," a waltz (what else?) with a sparkling Brubeck solo. Jones' modified parade beat supports "Crescent City Stomp," another municipal tribute. The piece's melodic and harmonic complexity over basic rhythms makes it a rarified take on New Orleans. The CD has yet another version of Desmond's "Take Five" as a feature for Jones, whose solo keeps it fresh. Freshness is Brubeck's stock in trade as he progresses through his ninth decade.