The warmest and most relaxing holiday album of the season isn't a holiday album at all. It's a new release from the late Dave Brubeck called Lullabies (Verve). The 15 previously unreleased piano solos were recorded in March 2010 as a gift to his grandchildren, and the standards and originals would become his last studio recording. Dave died in 2012.
I last saw Dave in December 2010, when I visited Dave and his wife, Iola, for a Wall Street Journal interview and essay. It was a cold weekend afternoon between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We sat comfortably in a glassed-in terrace, baking in the brilliant sunshine. As we talked, we watched the rushing stream that ran next to his home in Wilton, Ct., empty into a large lake out back.
After, Dave and Iola took me on a tour of the Japanese-inspired modernist home designed by Beverley Thorne in 1963. Along the way, I asked Dave to fulfill a fantasy I'd long had to hear him play Nomad in the contemporary space. Dave politely declined. Naturally, I was crestfallen. In addition to babying sore, chapped fingers, Dave quietly said he had forgotten much of it. Which saddened me greatly and made me feel guilty for asking and eliciting such a confession.
The reason I bring up all of this is that Lullabies reminds me of my visit—the relaxed quality of the day, Dave's gentleness and his beaming delight sitting in the sun talking about his past.
The album's songs are Brahms' Lullaby, When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, Over The Rainbow, Danny Boy, Going to Sleep, There’s No Place Like Home, Lullaby For Iola, Koto Song, All Through the Night Softly, William, Softly, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Briar Bush, Sleep, Summertime and Brahms' Lullaby (Reprise).
The place to listen to this album is in front of a roaring fire, as it crackles and hisses, and logs shift. You'll hear Dave's personality in the treatment of each song, his confident strength, his chord voicings and his sensitivity and tenderness. Of course, this album led me to the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz: Red Hot and Cool in 1955 and beyond. What a treasure he remains.
JazzWax clips: Here's Lullaby for Iola...
And here's Brahms' Lullaby...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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