BWW Reviews: Adelaide Cabaret Fringe TAKE FIVE - THE DAVE BRUBECK STORY Brings West Coast Cool to Adelaide jazz lovers

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Reviewed 22nd June 2013

Jazz pianist, Dave Brubeck, put together a quartet that played during the 1950s and 60s and that put out the first platinum selling jazz album, with the title Time Out. It contained the track, Take Five, which became the top selling instrumental piece of all time. Take Five - The Dave Brubeck Story is a tribute to that particular incarnation of the quartet, and the many memorable tunes that they recorded during their time together.

That quartet had a formidable line-up, with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello, and bassist EuGene Wright. Adelaide pianist, BrenDan Fitzgerald, has alto saxophonist Andy Firth, drummer Satomi Ohnishi, and bassist Quentin Dunne joining him to bring Brubeck's music to life for two performances.

The performance begins with Fitzgerald at a mock-up of a radio station where he plays Jimmy Lyons, a great supporter of Brubeck, who is presenting a jazz programme when he is interrupted by a telephone call announcing the death of Dave Brubeck on the day before his 92nd birthday. He announces that he will devote the rest of the programme to Brubeck's music. Fitzgerald then moves to the piano and, from there on, the numbers are linked by either recorded snippets of information, supposedly spoken by Lyons, or comments from Fitzgerald. Images of Brubeck and his quartet, as well as more general images of the time, help to establish the time and social mores in America when the quartet was at its height.

In the end, though, it is all about Brubeck's music, and that is where it essential to have four extremely talented and skilled musicians to play his complex works. Brubeck's drummer, Joe Morello, was a highly educated musician, starting on violin and soloing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the age of nine playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. After meeting Jascha Heifetz he decided that he could never become that good, and switched to drums. He joined Brubeck in 1956 bringing with him the ability to play in complex time signatures, or multiple time signatures within a number. His improvising in 5/4 as a warm up exercise was noticed by Brubeck, who asked Paul Desmond to compose a piece in that time signature, and Take Five was the result.

EuGene Wright joined in 1958 and the quartet continued until Brubeck disbanded it in 1968. Wright would seem to be, with his Kansas City style of playing, an unusual choice and yet, surprisingly, he was an excellent fit in the quartet. The Classic Quartet, as it is referred to, existed for only ten years, yet made over 60 albums.

Unsquare Dance, in 7/4, Blue Rondo a la Turk, It's a Raggy Waltz, and many more numbers using complex time signatures, or playing around with the beat to make a conventional time Signature Sound complicated, were to follow. Brubeck's initial training from his mother, who had planned to be concert pianist, and his studies with composer Darius Milhaud, gave his music a distinctive sound, with an accident in 1951 causing pain in his fingers, affecting his playing style, more focussed on complex block chords than on melodic runs..

BrenDan Fitzgerald does a marvellous job of interpreting Brubeck's music and, through his use of interesting chord progressions, discovers the sound of Brubeck anew. He is the keystone in this structure, binding the quartet firmly into a powerful ensemble.

Andy Firth is a phenomenal saxophonist and clarinettist who beautifully captures the light tone of Desmond's playing whether establishing the familiar melodies or improvising on them. His solos are magical.

Quentin Dunne provides a strong bass line, adding much to the integrity of their rendition of Brubeck's compositions as well as a great foundation for the others to build upon.

Japanese drummer, Satomi Ohnishi, is absolutely superb, with very crisp, clean playing and rock solid tempi. Her solos are inventive and her general playing gives good support and impetus to the others, lifting and underscoring their playing.

The BrenDan Fitzgerald Quartet as a whole is a very impressive unit and this concert of rhythmically and harmonically complex and difficult music shows just how good this group is.

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From This Author Barry Lenny