JJ 11/63: Dave Brubeck – Brubeck A La Mode

Sixty years ago Mike Shera welcomed a Brubeck album in 4/4, lighter in touch than usual and composed of considered modal explorations. First published in Jazz Journal November 1963


A Brubeck album without any abtruse time signatures makes a pleasant change. Clarinettist Bill Smith wrote all the tunes on this one, using a number of different modes. His idea, in his own words, is “to present simple frameworks for im­provisation”, and he succeeds quite well. His own playing is good on the faster tunes (particularly the opening track), but less successful on the slower ones, and unconvincing on the blues (Frisco Fog).

Brubeck is less hammer-happy than usual, but is equally weak on the blues. The Wright-Morello team is excellent as usual, Morello obviously enjoying the opportunity to swing in 4/4 time for a change.

Not a deeply significant album, then, but one that makes for pleasantly relaxed listening. Brubeck could have straightened his tie for the cover photo!

Dorian Dance; Peace; Brother; Invention; Lydian Line; Catch-me-if-you-can (19 min) – Frisco Fog; The Piper; Soliloquy; One For The Kids; Ballade (19 min)
Bill Smith (clt); Dave Brubeck (p); Gene Wright (bs); Joe Morello (d). San Francisco, May and June, 1960.
(Vocalion LAE 559 12inLP 32s. 2d.)