Ro Writes Music
Looking over the track list for LifeTimes, the fourth release by Chris (electric bass, under-utilized bass trombone) and Dan (drums) Brubeck and their colleagues Mike DeMicco (guitar) and Chuck Lamb (piano), a potential listener might suspect that the band, which calls itself BBQ, is short on original ideas: Four of the eight tracks were composed by the Brubecks’ better-known dad, and the finale, a 10-minute-plus “Take Five,” was written by Paul Desmond but has been Dave Brubeck’s signature for decades.
But although their previous recording, Classified, concluded with another Dave masterpiece, “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” the group doesn’t make a habit of interpreting the elder musician. LifeTimes is intentionally a tribute to Dave, now 91, and the quartet’s arrangements veer far enough afield from the originals to shake any criticisms of coat-tailing. “The Duke,” the forward-thrusting, silvery mid-’50s number that opens the set, slides into and out of disparate time shifts without a glitch and finds room for impressive solos from Chris and DeMicco. “Kathy’s Waltz” spends its first half moving at a leisurely pace before Lamb steps things up and shows what he’s capable of, and “Take Five” maintains its foundation rhythm but, largely due to Dan’s propulsive, funk-fueled drumming, avoids cocktail-hour fallbacks completely.
BBQ’s members are also fine composers—two of the other tracks come from Lamb and one from DeMicco—and the execution leaves little doubt that this is a band with its own ever-evolving vision. Lamb and DeMicco prove capable co-leaders—their solos on “The Girl From Massapequa” are particularly inspired—and the brothers themselves are as instinctual a rhythm section as any.