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Jazz at Oberlin

Oberver (UK), Jan 2011, rated "Jazz At Oberlin" as one of the 50 great moments in Jazz - article below.

Brubeck's 1953 live album showed that jazz didn't have to follow the bebop route, and that there was even a chart audience out there for it

The pianist and composer Dave Brubeck had more than his share of Great Moments: he was the first to sell a million copies of a jazz instrumental; he was one of Time magazine's rare jazz cover subjects; he has played for presidents and popes; composed everything from classic jazz themes to symphonies; and the tune of his most famous hit, Take Five, is familiar to music lovers, from eight-year-olds to octogenarians.

Brubeck's first Great Jazz Moment is one that has been overlooked though – the making of his quartet's 1953 live album, Jazz at Oberlin. Not only did this dynamic gig reveal Brubeck's vivacious creative relationship with west coast alto saxophonist Paul Desmond to a new and youthful audience, confirming the then 29-year-old Desmond as a sensational sax improviser, it also indicated new directions for jazz that didn't slavishly mirror bebop, and even hinted at free-jazz piano techniques still years away from realisation. The significance of Jazz at Oberlin didn't stop with the music either. The enthusiasm of the college audience, audible throughout the album, marked Brubeck's eager adoption by America's (predominantly white) youth – a welcome that soon extended around the world, and brought the pianist chart hits for a rhythmically intricate instrumental jazz in a period in which the newly emerged rock'n'roll was carrying all before it.

What came to be known as Brubeck's "classic quartet" (comprising of Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and the astonishing polyrhythmic drummer Joe Morello) was still three years away when the Oberlin concert was recorded, though drummer Ron Crotty and bassist Lloyd Davis played the show with brisk empathy. At the same time the repertoire – variations on standard songs or bop anthems – gave no hint as to Brubeck's subsequent fascination with adventurous but very catchy time-signatures like 5/4 and 9/8, not to mention his adaptations of classical forms like rondos and fugues. Oberlin did, however, open a window on the core creative relationship that would soon ignite all those elements (Take Five was a collaboration, developed by Brubeck from a Paul Desmond theme), and revealed a wealth of harmonic and rhythmic references in the leader's own playing that would change the language of jazz.


from Balcony Rock ~ The Complete College Concerts, released April 4, 2021
Dave Brubeck (piano)
Paul Desmond (alto sax)
Ron Crotty (bass)
Lloyd Davis (drums)


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Launched 2011,by Barrow Producer & musician,
Jason Lee Lazell, the world & jazz buyer for Tower Records (1993-2003) the largest record store in Europe…the critically acclaimed label Moochin’ About has gained admiration from Cerys Matthews,Huey Morgan,Giles Peterson,Jamie Cullum,Stuart Marcone,Johnny Trunk,Robert Elms,Iggy Pop… ... more

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