JJ 07/62: Dave Brubeck – Countdown Time In Outer Space

Sixty years ago Steve Voce thought Countdown highly polished, rhythmically complex and uneasily pretentious - good Brubeck, if not good jazz. First published in Jazz Journal July 1962


By Brubeck standards this is an out­standing album. It is the mixture as before, highly polished, rhythmically complex and uneasily pretentious, but there can be no doubt that Brubeck is a composer of merit and that his three musicians are among the most skilled in their field.

Is it good jazz? Regretfully I must say that I think not. This is fascinating music, but Mr. Brubeck’s idea of what constitutes the red meat of jazz is vastly different to mine.

However, if we approach Brubeck’s music as a form on its own, this album is superior to any I have heard since the old “Oberlin” and “Jazz Goes To College” sets. Desmond is superb throughout, as usual reminding one of Stan Getz playing in a German march­ing band. Morello, on whom this album leans heavily, makes light work of being immaculate and uses the tympani to great effect in one or two spots.

Brubeck plays some of his folksy stuff, notably in “Countdown”, where he manages to sound like Meade Lux Lewis on a bad piano. This track swings in a way which, for Brubeck, seems almost unrespectable, and makes great things from a ten-to-a-bar left hand. Desmond’s high spots come in “Eleven Four”, “Prince”, “Three’s A Crowd” and “Back To Earth”.

The four tracks beginning with “Fast Life” (Brubeck sounds like Phineas Newborn) are from a ballet “Maiden In The Tower” which Brubeck is currently writing. This is Brubeckiana at its best. “Fast” dispels any doubts about the man’s piano ability, and the way Des­mond prods at “Waltz Limp” is a lesson in saxophone tone production.

Like me you will probably be vastly put off by the heavy-type banner on the sleeve: “THIS ALBUM IS DEDI­CATED TO LIEUT. COL. JOHN H. GLENN, JR.” One can imagine the next intrepid astronaut pausing on his way into the rocket: “I would like to dedicate my next orbit to . . .”

Countdown; Eleven Four; Why Phillis; Someday My Prince Will Come; Castilian Blues (16½ min) – Castiiian Drums; Fast Life; Waltz Limp; Three’s A Crowd; Danse Duet; Back To Earth (21 min)
Paul Desmond (alt); Dave Brubeck (p); Gene Wright (b); Joe Morello (d). 1962.
(CBS BPG 62013 !2inLP 36s. 9d.)