Brubeck’s quartet wasn’t “classic” until 1959

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I am indebted to Marshall Zucker’s letter re my review of the Dave Brubeck album Bossa Nova USA (JJ 1218). He is right to point out that I was referring to what is commonly called Brubeck’s “Classic Quartet” when I stated that he (Brubeck) “formed his quartet in 1959 and it survived until 1967”. The brevity required in a short review did not allow me to make that point. However, I hold my hands up to not spotting my mistake of saying “his quartet” instead of the intended “this quartet” since Desmond, Morello and Wright were all listed in the personnel section.

I do take a small issue, however, with Zucker’s statement that the so-called “Classic Quartet” was formed in 1958. It is true that Eugene Wright did go on tour with Brubeck, Desmond and Morello on the US State Department (“American values”) tour of Europe and Asia in 1958; but it is my understanding that Wright did not become a permanent member of the quartet until the recording of the Gone With the Wind album in April 1959.

I think there is corroboration for this view as two further albums were released in 1958 after the album The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe (recorded March 1958 and featuring Wright), both with Joe Benjamin on bass. These were Newport 1958 (recorded July 1958) and Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (recorded July/August 1958). Not until Gone With the Wind do we settle into an extended period – lasting until the late 1960s – where Wright was the default bass player. It is also that case that during the life of the “Classic Quartet”, Brubeck did record with other musicians and also added other musicians to the line-up of Desmond, Wright and Morello.

However, I am sure that Mr Zucker and I can agree on the greatness of Brubeck as a musician and his legacy to the world of jazz.

Ian Lomax