As Dave Brubeck’s December 6 centennial nears, fans have at least two reasons to be cheerful. First, on November 6, Verve Records will release Lullabies, recorded at Brubeck’s final studio session in March 2010. The late pianist and composer intended this solo-piano collection to be a gift for his grandchildren, and it contains both familiar tunes—”Over the Rainbow,” “Danny Boy,” “All Through the Night,” “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” the “Lullaby” of Johannes Brahms—and five original compositions: “Going to Sleep,” “Lullaby for Iola,” “Koto Song,” “Softly, William, Softly,” and “Briar Bush.” At the time of the session, Brubeck was 89; he would pass away just one day shy of his 92nd birthday in 2012. Check out a video for the album’s lovely leadoff track, “Brahms Lullaby,” here.
Second, the Brubeck family has announced the creation of a new archival music label called Brubeck Editions. Its inaugural release, scheduled for December 4, is a compilation of recently discovered outtakes from the 1959 sessions for Time Out, Brubeck’s best-known work and the first jazz album to officially sell more than a million copies. Like the original disc, the aptly titled Time OutTakes features Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond (author of the album’s standout track “Take Five”) on alto saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums.
The existence of the tapes from which these recordings are taken was first brought to the family’s attention by several Brubeck biographers, during interviews with his sons Chris, Darius, and Dan for centennial-targeted books. Their interest was duly piqued. Chris recalls: “During an English tour by Brubecks Play Brubeck—Darius on piano, me on bass and trombone, Dan on drums and Dave O’Higgins on saxophones—we listened to hours of music that never made it onto the final Time Out LP. These undiscovered performances were a thrilling revelation! The interaction of these immensely talented musicians created incredible music but we also could hear that they actually did make mistakes sometimes.”
Alternate takes of “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” “Strange Meadowlark,” “Take Five,” “Three to Get Ready,” and “Cathy’s Waltz” make up the bulk of the album. The other two tracks on Time Out, “Pick Up Sticks” and “Everybody’s Jumpin’,” were each captured in a single take, so there are no alternates; on Time OutTakes, their place is taken by two previously unheard recordings. The one non-original attempted during the Time Out sessions, Brubeck’s kaleidoscopic arrangement of the Goodhart, Hoffman & Sigler song “I’m in a Dancing Mood” was frequently played both live and in the studio by his quartet during the ’50s. It’s followed by “Watusi Jam,” a trio jam (without Desmond) that was unmarked on the session tapes and features a mere six bars of the tune “Watusi Drums,” which had previously appeared on the 1958 live album In Europe.
One more piece of Brubeck-related news that readers may find exciting: The ultramodern (for 1963) 6,200-square-foot house that the pianist had built to his specifications and in which he resided for nearly half a century is up for sale. Do note that this news is much more exciting if you like the town of Wilton, Connecticut, and have a spare $2.75 million.
Read Mike Shanley’s review of Philip Clark’s recent biography Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time.