Dave Grusin Trio: Subways Are For Sleeping

He might be best known for his smooth jazz, but in 1961 pianist Grusin jazzed a Broadway musical with Milt Hinton and Don Lamond


Pianist and composer Dave Grusin may have slipped through the memory banks of some readers but in the early 60s he was good enough to have been musical director for Andy Williams, for whom he played piano on a series of best-selling singles and albums. He’s also arranged for and recorded with Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones and Carmen McRae and played electric keyboards with Gerry Mulligan and Lee Ritenour. Between the late 60s and 2000 Grusin composed and arranged the music for over 100 Hollywood movies including The Graduate, Three Days Of The Condor, Heaven Can Wait, On Golden Pond and Tootsie as well as the theme music for numerous television programmes.

In 1961, at the age of 27, Grusin was signed by Columbia Records. The following year his debut LP, Subways Are for Sleeping, was released on their Epic label. It was to be the first of over 30 albums that included acclaimed tributes to Ellington, Gershwin, Bernstein and Mancini. His Subways album, now reissued on CD for the first time, presents jazz versions of nine songs from Jule Styne’s Broadway show telling the tale of two odd-ball characters living by their wits in New York. Grusin on piano is accompanied by Milt Hinton on bass and Don Lamond drums.

He takes us through through nine of Styne’s melodies, supplying his own jazz interpretations of the score from the Broadway show. His playing at times reminds me of Dave Brubeck without the latter’s propensity for heavy block chords. Three gentle ballads are neatly placed at intervals of roughly a third through the nine numbers: How Can You Describe a Face?; Now I Have Someone; and I Said It And I’m Glad. 

Quincy Jones said of Grusin “Dave shows that you can play with musical integrity without it sounding like vanilla.” He’s still performing at the age of 89 and I hear that he’s currently touring with six upcoming concerts. Over the years Dave Grusin has not perhaps been given the recognition that he deserves – maybe this reissue will help turn the tide. The CD comes with photos and original liner notes in an eight page booklet.

I’m Just Taking My Time; Ride Through the Night; Now I Have Someone; When You Help a Friend Out; Getting Married; How Can You Describe A Face?; Who Knows What Might Have Been?; I Said It And I’m Glad; Comes Once in a Lifetime (40.58)
Grusin (p); Milt Hinton (b); Don Lamond (d). New York, 8-9 November 1961.
Fresh Sound Records FSR 1673