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The Brubeck Brothers Quartet Releases "Timeline," Celebrating Dave Brubeck's Historic 1958 State Dept. Tour

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Apart from its historic value—this is an exciting and varied outing, recorded crisply and with great warmth. The "Timeline" it reflects is not just in years, but also in a legacy which—lucky for all of us—continues its powerful forward movement today. —Judith Schlesinger, ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Chris Brubeck and Dan Brubeck are extensions of a remarkable jazz legacy. Although they toured and recorded with their father extensively, the immensely popular and influential jazz innovator Dave Brubeck, Chris and Dan have forged their own musical identities.

Bassist and trombonist Chris and drummer Dan have previously released four albums with their band Brubeck Brothers Quartet. Along with their musical compatriots, Mike DeMicco on guitar and Chuck Lamb on piano, they are releasing their newest CD, Timeline (Blue Forest Records, March 19, 2018) celebrating the 60th anniversary of Dave Brubeck’s seminal State Department Tour as an official jazz ambassador for the United States.

In 1958, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were engaged in the Cold War, and the U.S. State Department deployed American popular culture as one of the country’s most effective secret weapons. Jazz is one of America's most important cultural exports, and this 80-concert tour took Dave to 14 countries across Eurasia. The tour was designed to promote democracy and build bridges to the artistic and intellectual communities behind the Iron Curtain and throughout the Middle East. Being exposed to new cultures and new musical languages had a big impact on Dave's compositions and consequently on the jazz world as well. Timeline includes tunes written by Dave inspired by that 1958 tour which have been freshly re- arranged by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, as well as some compelling new originals by Chuck Lamb, Mike DeMicco and Chris Brubeck.

Chris and Dan honed their chops working in Dave’s band for many years, but they also struck out on their own, with each touring and recording in different groups and styles through the years. Dan’s versatile drumming style has led him to tour and record with such diverse artists as The Band, Roy Buchanon, Larry Coryell, Gerry Mulligan and his own groups including The Dolphins (with Mike DeMicco). As a producer, Dan's projects have been nominated for both a Grammy and a Juno. Chris is an accomplished composer writing in different styles of music— from symphonic scores to jazz, to innovative rock-n-roll, blues, funk and soul. Like their father, who was influenced by the different types of music he encountered on his journeys, the brothers’ fresh take on their father’s classic tunes as well as their own original compositions reflect the diversity of their experiences and their instinct to incorporate new ideas in their music.

For example, listen to “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” one of Dave’s most well-known tunes. Dave was influenced by the rhythms of the street musicians he heard in Istanbul. He determined the meter he was hearing was in 9/8, composed a melody in that time signature, applied the classical Rondo form, and then juxtaposed it with the blues. The Brubeck Brothers Quartet's arrangement of the tune starts with Dan playing the doumbek, a type of drum popular in the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia, and then breaks up the 9/8 melody with exciting hand drumming. Although Dave didn’t use the doumbek in his own version, it is most likely one of the instruments he heard the Turkish street musicians playing in 1958.

On Timeline, the band begins “Far More Blue” in a laid-back 4/4 approach that breaks into a fast 5/4 groove. The tune features a superb polyrhythmic drum solo by Dan. “Easy as You Go” was originally featured in “The Real Ambassadors,” a jazz musical developed by Dave and Iola Brubeck which featured Louis Armstrong. The show, which drew upon experiences the Brubecks had on the State Department tour, was about the important role that musicians play as unofficial ambassadors for their countries. This ballad has a sultry vibe and features Chris’s lush trombone playing. “My dad knew the lyrics to every song he played. He said you can’t play a song well unless you know the words to it,” says Chris. “This tune is really an example of the amazing partnership my parents had and how Dave’s music and Iola’s lyrics really informed each other. That’s why I’m particularly conscious of the phrasing on this tune.” “Since Love Had Its Way” is the most straight-ahead tune on the CD and features a swinging solo by DeMicco on guitar and hip bass/scat solo by Chris.

Dave’s original version of “Tritonis” stuck to a 12-bar blues cycle but here the band changes up the structure considerably to give it a more contemporary feel. The BBQ turns “The Golden Horn,” (which originally appeared on Dave’s “Jazz Impressions of Eurasia”) into a high-energy piece featuring nimble and clearly articulated fretwork by DeMicco contrasting with some half-time funk and a dizzying piano performance by Lamb. The band closes the CD with “Thank You” (Dziekuje in Polish), a tune Dave was inspired to write after a visit to Chopin’s house during the tour. Dave played the tune romantically, but the Quartet plays it here as a 5/4 quasi-bossa nova.

There are also several original compositions on this disc, including “Boundward Home” by Lamb. It’s the only tune on the CD written in 3/4 and evokes the spirit of adventure and travel. Lamb also contributed “Prime Directive,” a title which sounds like the kind of official jargon one would hear from the State Department. It’s a celebratory tune with many influences, including a sizzling Latin section. Chris wrote “3 Wise Men” with a Middle Eastern feel to commemorate Dave’s trip, and DeMicco wrote “North Coast,” a contemporary, straight-ahead tune with an urban edge.

On Timeline the Brubeck Brothers Quartet explores odd time signatures while integrating the blues, contemporary jazz, and world music with exciting new arrangements of classic Dave Brubeck tunes plus original compositions. As with all truly spontaneous jazz artists, the band is not afraid to take chances and pushes the envelope to create a rewarding and inventive musical journey.

Timeline is available online everywhere on March 19, 2018.

Listen to “Easy As You Go" on Soundcloud

This story appears courtesy of Mouthpiece Music.
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