TO Jazz Review: Dave Brubeck Quartet, June 24, Koerner Hall

Toronto – Dave Brubeck would probably appreciate a review of one of his shows that doesn’t reference his age. Last night was the second time I’ve seen Brubeck and his quartet in concert, and both shows easily rank among the best jazz performances I’ve ever seen. The man is a master behind the piano keys, his solos are breathtaking, his absurdly long fingers just fly across his piano when he picks up the pace and are equally deft during his somber mood pieces. I can’t even explain what he and his quartet do with time signatures. It’s over my head. You’d have to be some sort of music theoretician to explain it properly, probably.

But the fact is, Dave Brubeck is 90 years old. It’s a stunning number. People that age aren’t supposed to be able to tour around the country, selling out concert halls and stunning audiences. By any reasonable standard, Dave Brubeck should be retired. He should be enjoying his status as a jazz icon of incredible longevity in a coastal home in California, relaxing on a deck chair watching the sunset.

He doesn’t walk too well. He speaks in a slow, halting fashion, pausing to search for the right words often. At 9:30 he declared it was “getting pretty late” and played the last song of the night.

But Dave Brubeck had the crowd in the palm of his hand all night long, from the standing ovation that greeted him to the one that bid him farewell and just wouldn’t stop. He gave us the benefit of his self-depricating sense of humour, telling us it’s a “good thing you clapped before you heard me play,” the only man in the room who didn’t think a brilliant show was in the offing. He told a story of how Miles Davis,  “the kind of jazz,” according to Brubeck, ripped off his idea for a jazz album of Disney tunes, before playing a wonderful rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” After “Elegy,” he said the song is “a great mood kind of thing, and I enjoy playing it very much. Thank you for liking it.” He praised Clint Eastwood’s documentary about him, In His Own Sweet Way, and talked about when Eastwood used to sneak into clubs when he was 15 to see Brubeck play. He beamed with pride when his son Matthew, a music teacher at York University, sat in with his cello for the latter half of the set. The lines of his face seemed to melt away as he watched his bandmates play one delightful solo after another, and he positively shone while doing a few of his own.

I must admit, my attention did wander in the middle of his set a little, probably a function of seeing something really great for the second time in recent memory. Like last time, however, I’ve had the opening melody from “Take Five,” the set closer, in my head since the show ended, and probably will for days to come. This is the third year in a row that Brubeck, along with saxaphonist/flautist Bobby Militello, double bassist Michael Moore, and drummer Randy Jones have graced a Toronto Jazz Fest stage. Lets hope that he comes back for years to come, and never really acts his age.

Someday My Prince Will Come by DaveBrubeck

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Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival

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