Reviews

Reviews

“Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck”

by The Dan Brubeck Quartet

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  • ...A double disc set of pure goodness...

    midwestrecord.com                                                            +/-

    21 April 2015:

    DAN BRUBECK QUARTET/Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck

    For over 40 years, the Brubeck kids have done a fine job of stepping out from a long shadow and doing fine work in the family business.  With Dan stepping out for his debut as a leader on this set honoring the music of his parents, the skein is kept in tact with yet another win by an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree.  While a drummer rather than a piano man, Dan’s love shines through on this set of tunes that weren’t as well known in the Brubeck pѐre canon.  A double disc set of pure goodness, if these songs aren’t known to you, it’s a wonderful way to keep the Brubeck legacy alive by checking them out.  Great playing through out by a cat that certainly has jazz on his DNA.  And for those that don’t like to take chances, you can always wrap things up here as the crew ‘Take(s) Five’.  Well done throughout.

    —www.midwestrecord.com

     

  • ...The performances here are lovely...The whole project endears itself through its lack of pretentiousness...

                                                               The Buffalo News (buffalo.com)                                                    +/-

    22 April 2015:

    Buffalo misses Dave Brubeck, who used to come often to our town. It was sad to lose him in December 2012, a day before his 92nd birthday. Brubeck’s wife, Iola, died a little more than a year afterward. This disc, anchored by their drummer son, Dan, is a heartfelt tribute to both of them.

     

    Dave and Iola Brubeck’s careers were intertwined in various ways. Not only did she write lyrics for his songs, but, as Dan writes, she actually influenced jazz, by bringing it out of the nightclubs and onto college campuses. She also helped with his religious music, researching and distilling texts.

     

    This double-CD set includes 14 Brubeck songs, performed in a lighthearted, leisurely manner. There are texts to all the songs and fascinating notes about them by Iola, written down by her in the months before she died. Iola’s lyrics are simple but add so much to an already beautiful melody like “Summer Song.” And she fitted out “It’s a Raggy Waltz,” which I’ve always loved as an instrumental, with lyrics that are nothing less than ingenious. (The melody was there first. I checked.)

     

    The lullabylike “Ode To a Cowboy,” the early song “Weep No More,” the excerpt from Brubeck’s 1979 “Mass: To Hope!” called “The Desert and the Parched Land” … we should hear these songs more, I kept thinking. Jazz singers should sing these more in clubs. Classical singers should put them into recitals, too. Though most of these songs were performed for the first time by Carmen McRae, “Strange Meadowlark” also was sung by the great mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade.

     

    The performances here are lovely, and make such a strong case for the music. They are not overbearing or grating. The saxophone solos, by Steve Kaldestad, are brief and eloquent. Tony Foster’s piano is modest and graceful. Brubeck doesn’t shove his drumming down your throat. And bassist Adam Thomas has a sweet, laid-back, hipster style of singing. The whole project endears itself through its lack of pretentiousness. So much like Brubeck himself – and his wife, too, I imagine. I never met her, though now I feel I have.

     

    – Mary Kunz Goldman, The Buffalo News

     

  • ..solid performances, respecting the material...

                                                           Amazon customer review (amazon.com)                                         +/-

    26 April 2015:

    A Loving Retrospection of Music and Lyrics

     

    I did a double-take when the 2-CD set arrived in the mail; the cover showed Dave and Iola Brubeck and said "The Dan Brubeck Quartet". Dan Brubeck is the drummer son and he now has his own, Vancouver-based, jazz group. These live recordings honor his parents. As many know, Iola wrote the lyrics to Dave's tunes and sometimes it went the other way, as often occurs in writing teams. Iola provided the notes to most of these tracks just weeks before her death in March 2014. Dave died in December 2012. Dan Brubeck chose some classic tunes and a few rarely heard from Dave Brubeck's long career, including his spiritual recordings. He is joined on stage by Steve Kaldestad, saxophone, Tony Foster at the piano, and Adam Thomas with acoustic bass. Thomas is the vocalist as well; his voice has a sweet lilt and he puts much emotion in his renditions, though at times straining is heard. He is a bassist who happens to carry a tune. The combo provides solid performances, respecting the material. The emphasis is on lyrics and the brief solos by Kaldestad and Foster ornament and expand the harmonies.

     

    The first disc begins with In Your Own Sweet Way, whose lyrics were drafted later for Carmen McRae. Dave wrote the uptempo Since Love Had Its Way for Louis Armstrong. Summer Song, a much loved tune, also was featured with Armstrong in The Real Ambassadors. It's A Raggy Waltz was an instrumental before until Iola later tried her hand at it and Carmen McRae sang it; Thomas does well with the difficult phrasing. Autumn in Our Town began life as a poem by Iola. Lord, Lord, a passionate piece, is blues based, and Kaldestad and Foster along with Brubeck stretch out. This is the strongest track of the first half of the session. Ode to a Cowboy really is about the Pete Brubeck ranch in Concord, California, and son and grandsons who rode horses there. The famous Blue Rondo a la Turk closes disk 1 and, for a change, lacks Iola's lyrics and is presented as an instrumental. Others have tried: Al Jarreau, Bette Midler, Swingle Singers. The second half offers Dave Brubeck's most honored song, Strange Meadowlark, which has been performed by many vocalists. The quartet plays the piece with fine warmth and joy. The Desert and The Parched Land is from Dave Brubeck's Mass and is based on Isaiah with Iola's second verse. Rather than its usual classical rendition, the group turns it into a spiritual ballad, and here Thomas solos on bass. Dave wrote the lyrics to the next tune, For Iola, 24 years after the music for Iola's 85th birthday, but the track is solely an instrumental. And this is new to me: The Duke was originally titled The Duke Meets Darius Milhaud. Mihaud was Dave's composition professor at Mills College. The earliest recordings of Brubeck are semi-classical, much influenced by this member of Les Six of French composers. The track is also an instrumental. Weep No More, Brubeck's very first song, was written while in the Army after VE Day, 1945. A Dave Brubeck cover album would not be complete without Take Five, and it closes the session. Dan at last solos, honoring Joe Morello, Dave's drummer who helped bring glory to this jazz classic. Package notes include casual photographs and all the lyrics. This album is filled with love for Dave and Iola Brubeck, jazz greats.

     

    – Customer review by Dr. Debra Jan Bibel, “World music explorer”

    (amazon.com)

     

  • ..Dan has strength, intensity and power in his playing,
    and he displays all of it on this album...

     

                                        Doug Ramsey, Rifftides blog, Jazz Journalists Association                             +/-

    2 May 2015:

    Dan Brubeck Honors His Parents

     

    On the eve of his 60th birthday, Dave and Iola Brubeck’s drummer son releases his first album as a leader. A tribute to his parents, it is also a revelation of the quality of musicians in his adopted hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

    With his work in his father’s quartet, Two Generations of Brubecks, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Larry Coryell and the Dolphins, Dan Brubeck established decades ago that he was an extraordinary drummer. Barely into his twenties, he substituted for Joe Morello when Morello’s worsening eyesight forced him to leave the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 25th anniversary reunion tour. Young Brubeck’s firm time and light touch made him a favorite of DBQ saxophonist Paul Desmond, who was exacting in the qualities he expected in drummers.

     

    In Vancouver, Brubeck recorded with his quartet at The Cellar four months before the club closed in late 2013. All of the 14 pieces they performed were by Dave Brubeck, many of the songs with words by Iola. Dan Brubeck writes in his liner notes that bassist Adam Thomas sings, “…completely in tune, phrasing beautifully, with a soulful sweetness, all while swinging his ass off on bass.” That’s an accurate evaluation of Thomas’s bass work. In an instance or two, demanding melodic intervals put a bit of strain on his voice, but he sings “Summer Song” “Ode to a Cowboy,” “Strange Meadowlark,” even the metric challenges in “It’s A Raggy Waltz,” with élan and a subtle jazz-wise edge. He conveys the implications of tragedy and hope in the lyric Dave wrote to “Weep No More” following his World War Two Army service in Europe.

    To one not familiar with the current Vancouver jazz scene, Thomas comes as a surprise, as do saxophonist Steve Kaldestad and pianist Tony Foster, who avoid attempts to emulate Desmond and Dave Brubeck. A hint of John Coltrane surfaces in Kaldestad’s tenor playing but does not dominate it. His low register on the horn has remarkable resonance. On alto, his individuality is tempered with evidence that he may be familiar with Sonny Stitt. Foster’s piano touch is light and he has impressive speed. He permeates with blues feeling his solo on “Lord, Lord” from Dave Brubeck’s cantata The Gates of Justice.

     

    At a Brubeck Brothers concert a few seasons ago, Chris Brubeck introduced his little brother with affection as “an animal on the drums.” It is true that Dan has strength, intensity and power in his playing, and he displays all of it on this album, notably in his solo on “Take Five,” the longest track in the two-CD set. He balances his aggressive side with the sensitive support of his brushes on the exquisite “Autumn In Our Town” and the album’s other ballads.

     

    The booklet accompanying the CD set includes lyrics to nine of the songs that Thomas sings. In addition to Dan Brubeck’s essay, it has track-by-track commentary on the tunes; Iola wrote it shortly before her death in the spring of 2014. The booklet also has a selection of Brubeck family photographs.

     

    A video made at The Cellar during the recording sessions that produced the album shows the quartet at work. It’s a montage of pieces on the CD, with the exception of the opening drum solo and part of a Kaldestad tenor solo on Dave Brubeck’s “Jazzanians.”

     

    The pieces in the Montage were “Jazzanians,” “Ode to a Cowboy,” “Autumn in Our Town,” “Blue Rondo ala Turk,” Strange Meadowlark” and “Take Five.” The album was released on April 28th. Amazon has it as an MP3 album. CD Baby offers it as both MP3 and CD.

    –Doug Ramsey, Rifftides, award-winning blog of the international Jazz Journalists Association

     

  • Fans of the Brubeck family members will find much to treasure in this 2 CD set. It is a real eye opener to discover the lyrical talents of Iola Brubeck…

    ...Thomas has a tender, lightly swinging vocal style that
    is pleasing to the ear with a clear enunciation that gives the listener
    time to both take in and marvel at the lyrics....

    ...Kaldestad has a sax solo that would
    be at home in the hands of Paul Desmond.

                                        Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition, (audaud.com)                             +/-

    14 May 2015:

    Dan Brubeck: Honoring His Elders

    It is more than appropriate for drummer Dan Brubeck to honor his parents, Dave and Iola Brubeck, in Dan’s recording debut. What makes this two CD issue even more special is the fact that Dan chose to record his parents’ songbook with a major emphasis on the lyrics that accompanied the compositions. Dave Brubeck is most known for his instrumental discography, and not so much for the lyrics that he and his wife, Iola, composed. Many of the song titles are well known, but most fans of Brubeck may have been unaware that there were lyrics as well. Many of these tracks had been performed before by Carmen McRae throughout her career. Dave Brubeck passed away at age 91 in 2012, and Iola died last year at age 90. Iola had the chance to comment on the majority of the tracks (included with the liner notes) on this double CD before she passed away.

     

    Dan Brubeck lives in Vancouver, B.C, as do the members of his quartet, and they chose the live venue of The Cellar, in town, to record this tribute issue during the month of August in 2013. Credit goes to the quartet’s bassist (and vocalist), Adam Thomas, who engineered the recording as well as doing the mixing and mastering. Adam also assisted with the arrangement and production with Dan. The acoustics for a live recording are exemplary. I found Thomas’ vocals to be engaging, and with few exceptions his voice was a good fit for the often melancholy mood that the songs’ lyrics exemplified.

     

    “In Your Own Sweet Way” opens Disk 1. It is one of the most well known Brubeck ballads, and Thomas has a tender, lightly swinging vocal style (both here and throughout this project) that is pleasing to the ear with a clear enunciation that gives the listener time to both take in and marvel at the lyrics. It is followed by “Since Love Had Its Way,”  written for Louis Armstrong, on The Real Ambassadors recording that Dave recorded with Satchmo back in 1961. Steve Kaldestad has a swinging solo here.

    “Summer Song” is based on an improvisation on “Over the Rainbow,” and was made famous by Armstrong and also was performed by Carmen McRae. Words from this track are engraved on Dave and Iola’s cemetery plot. “Autumn in Our Town” is given a melancholy reading and is deeply touching, bringing on feelings of an old contented couple looking out their window on leaves falling in their town. Kaldestad has a sax solo that would be at home in the hands of Paul Desmond. “Lord, Lord” written as a minor blues, was a major classical work for Dave Brubeck. It was part of The Gates of Justice project that has been used to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Iola Brubeck’s lyrics are wrenching, and Kaldestad’s sax solo is masterful. The quartet ends the first disc with one of Dave’s most famous compositions, “Blue Rondo A La Turk.”

     

    Disk 2 features “The Desert and The Parched Land,” from Dave Brubeck’s 1979 issue, Mass: To Hope. Its verses are religious in nature. Pianist Tony Foster’s introductory solo sets the stage for its lyrics. “For Iola” written by Dave for his wife shares their seventy year plus bond. Of historical value is the inclusion of “Weep No More,” the first song that Dave wrote with lyrics. It was composed after VE Day 1945, when Dave was with Patton’s’ troops in Germany. The lyrics are a mix of sadness and hope. No Dave Brubeck tribute would be complete without the inclusion of “Take Five” and the quartet’s version clocks in at over 14 minutes, more than double the length of any other track on the two discs.

     

    Fans of the Brubeck family members will find much to treasure in this 2 CD set. It is a real eye opener to discover the lyrical talents of Iola Brubeck…

    –Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition web magazine for music (audaud.com)

     

  • What I dig most about this two-CD set is its gentle approach to the music.

                                       Marc Meyers, jazzwax.com                             +/-

    3 June 2015:

    Dan Brubeck Quartet: Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave & Iola Brubeck (Blue Forest). Dan, the drummer son of the Brubecks, recorded this album at The Cellar in Vancouver, Canada, in August 2013. The group performed the tribute material less than a year after Dave's passing and a year prior to Iola's death. Dan was joined by pianist Tony Foster, saxophonist Steve Kaldestad and bassist-vocalist Adam Thomas. What I dig most about this two-CD set is its gentle approach to the music. My only wish is that it featured more instrumentals. This takes nothing away from Thomas's voice. It's just that Dave and Iola's feeling shine through best on instrumental pieces like The Duke, Take Five and For Iola. I miss them both.

    –Marc Myers, JazzWax (Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner).

    Marc writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal.

     

  • Thomas (vocals)…comes up aces on “It’s a Raggy Waltz” and “Summer Song”.

    This (recording)...does honor to the music of the Brubecks. It’s good to hear these classics presented here with love and vitality.

                                        George Fendel, jsojazzscene.org                             +/-

    May 2015:

    Surprise! Here’s another CD dedicated exclusively to the music of Dave and Iola Brubeck. Most listeners agree that the glory years for Brubeck were with alto giant Paul Desmond. But even after Desmond’s much too early departure (too many cigarettes), Brubeck’s contribution to jazz cannot be disputed. Some of the post-Desmond highlights involved one or another of his musical sons. One of them, drummer Dan Brubeck, leads the quartet here. He teamed up with talented Vancouver, B.C.-based Steve Kaldestad, tenor sax, Adam Thomas, bass and vocals, and Tony Foster, piano. This is a two-CD set with a combined total of 13 cuts, almost all of which are the elder Brubeck’s melodies and his wife Iola’s lyrics. Nine of the 13 feature Thomas’ vocals. He puts forth his best effort and comes up aces on “It’s a Raggy Waltz” and “Summer Song.” Among other classics are “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “Strange Meadowlark,” “The Duke” and of course the obligatory Desmond anthem “Take Five.” This August, 2013 live date at the Vancouver club The Cellar does honor to the music of the Brubecks. It’s good to hear these classics presented here with love and vitality.

    –George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon

  • …a labor of love on many levels, and it shows.

                                        James Hale, downbeat.com                             +/-

    August 2015:

    There are some great love stories in the music business, but none greater—or longer lasting— than Dave and Iola Brubeck. Many people who saw Dave Brubeck play over the years encountered Iola. She was usually in the audience, watching and listening as if it was the first rather than the one-thousandth time she’d seen her husband perform. Her role behind the scenes during the 70 years of their marriage is relatively well known (it was Iola who suggested the Brubeck quartet look for bookings on college campuses in the 1950s). Lesser known is her role as a lyricist for many of the pianist’s most famous songs.

    Their drummer son, Dan, set out to showcase his father’s music with his Vancouver-based quartet, and discovered that his bassist, Adam Thomas, had an ideal voice to communicate Iola’s wistful lyrics. It’s a light tenor voice with lots of character, and Thomas controls it well, particularly on the tongue-twisting “It’s A Raggy Waltz.” The only piece that stretches him uncomfortably is “The Desert And The Parched Land,” written originally for a liturgical soprano and reinterpreted here as a heartfelt ballad.

    Time is always highlighted when Brubeck’s music is the focus, but it’s never in question with a family member handling the rhythm chores. Dan steps up to demonstrate his chops—learned directly from Joe Morello—on the long, closing rendition of “Take Five,” but throughout this live set he’s clearly in control of his band.

    Although so many of the songs in Dave Brubeck’s book have become standards, hearing the lyrics is often like hearing the compositions anew, and a few—including “Since Love Had Its Way” and “Summer Song,” both of which were recorded by Louis Armstrong on The Real Ambassadors—are rarely heard. This is a labor of love on many levels, and it shows.

    –James Hale, Downbeat

  • With heartfelt devotion, drummer/composer Dan Brubeck pays tribute to his parents...with his new, consummately crafted, unpretentious release. The album shines well-merited limelight on the largely unsung but gifted Iola Brubeck.

                                        Owen McNally, wnpr.org                             +/-

    Text of the review follows. Go to WNPR.org (WNPR Radio, Connecticut) to see the review with added photographs, and extended audio and video clips.

     

    August 2015:

    With heartfelt devotion, drummer/composer Dan Brubeck pays tribute to his parents, the pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and the lyricist/librettist Iola Brubeck, with his new, consummately crafted, unpretentious release, Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck.

    One of the many benefits of the two-CD album is that it shines well-merited limelight on the largely unsung but gifted Iola Brubeck, and on the creative, vital role she played in Dave’s incredible rise to fame and fortune.

    That Dan, one of the four musician brothers in the Brubeck family’s musical dynasty, would pay tribute to his late father, the jazz and family patriarch, world-renowned pianist, composer, bandleader, and longtime Sage of Wilton, is of course no surprise.

    But what might be an eye-opener for some Brubeck fans -- even those who go way back to the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s now classic series of groundbreaking, enormously popular jazz goes to college recordings -- is the equal homage that Dan extends to his late mother, Iola.

    Iola was a gifted, sometimes wryly amusing lyricist/librettist, a perpetually invaluable behind-the-scenes collaborator, lifetime inspiration, and loving partner for Dave through their 70 years of marriage.

    Right from the earliest hardscrabble days together -- with the couple scuffling to pay the rent for a humble, dirt-floor, corrugated tin cabin, and put food on the table for their kids -- Iola handled the business side of her husband’s career.

    Dave abhorred those day-to-day details as a visionary idealist. Iola’s deft diplomatic skills are even credited with healing a once painful breach between Dave, an easy going Jimmy Stewart kind of a guy, and his great friend and collaborator, the brilliant, witty but somewhat eccentric alto saxophonist Paul Desmond.

    In later years, Iola, while raising six kids (including two non-musicians) with Dave who was often on the road as one of the busiest, globe-trotting superstars in the history of jazz, wrote first-rate, lyrical, and even clever lyrics for some of her famous husband’s songs, even as the librettist for their musical, “The Real Ambassadors.”

    “Everyone has always given so much praise to Dave for everything he did, and quite rightfully so. But not a lot of people really recognized what my Mom also achieved. I’ve always really loved the lyrics she wrote for my dad. She was an amazing, really smart woman, politically astute, with a sense of humor. And that all comes out in her lyrics,” said Dan Brubeck, explaining how he hopes his new album on Blue Forest Records might bring his late mother’s reputation the recognition he feels it so richly merits.

    His beloved parents, he stresses, were like champion teammates, each bringing out the very best in the other in an ideal, mutually beneficial, two-way alliance that may have been overshadowed by Dave’s enormous individual success. As the Horatio Alger, scorn-to-reverence jazz saga of the 1950s, Brubeck’s hard-earned ascension to international fame and critical acclaim might never have happened, Dan suggests, but for Iola’s less than heralded but no less pivotal and multi-faceted support.

    “I don’t think Dave would have been successful without Iola. I just don’t think it would have happened,” Dan said from his home just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

    “Because for one thing, Iola really believed in him. And Dave could get very insecure and down in those dark early years,” he said of his introspective father who was well-known for his deeply ingrained modesty and highly self-critical standards, qualities that never diminished despite his many later artistic triumphs and worldwide adulation.

    Never publicity hungry, Iola thrived on being the dedicated, behind-the-scenes figure.

    “In the beginning,” Dan said of his parents’ early days, “Dave had nothing but failure. He was making great music that no one cared about. When he first did his octet and with the different groups he had along the way, there was a hell of a lot of failure before there was any kind of success.”

    No matter how dark it may have seemed for Dave back then, there was always the loyal, loving Iola, his college sweetheart since their student days at College of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. The couple connected right from their first date at a college dance, when they decided, then and there, to get married. After a summer courtship, they married in September, 1942, when Dave, who had graduated from college and joined the Army, was on a brief leave. Later, Iola, who had always been interested in acting and writing, finished college, getting into radio work, doing everything from writing copy to freelance acting gigs on the airwaves, even landing a running part on the Mutual Network’s “Red Ryder” adventure series, according to Fred M. Hall’s Dave Brubeck biography, “It’s About Time.”Never publicity hungry, Iola thrived on being the dedicated, behind-the-scenes figure, serving in such varied roles as Dave’s chief lyricist/librettist and as his psychologically and spiritually inspiring cheerleader, an empathetic, subtly catalytic force who could dispel her genius husband’s self-doubts. Besides being his smart, multi-purpose, problem-solving manager, she was also -- and quite happily so -- the quintessential, All-American Mom who raised six kids with Dave, who was, besides being a jazz icon and a mass media celebrity, also a generous and equally devoted dad.

    When not writing lyrics for Dave’s songs or original poems that he would later set to music, Iola, in her own sweet way, handled everything else at home, from meals to getting the Brubeck kids to and from their music lessons, overseeing their childhood and teenage activities as they grew up in the always packed, vibrant, music-rocking family homestead in Wilton. For its many guests, whether it was Dave’s music pals like Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Gerry Mulligan, and Eugene Wright, or Iola’s actor friends like Sandy Dennis and Barbara Baxley (Dan’s godmother), or other associates and relatives, the welcoming Brubeck digs, ensconced on beautiful pastoral grounds, were known to one and all as the Wilton Hilton.

    California natives, Dave and Iola became Connecticut transplants in the early 1960s as the couple built their California-inspired, modern day, family dream house, which was designed for them by the famous California architect Beverley David Thorne.

    Perhaps most important of all -- at least in terms of propelling Dave from penury and obscurity to becoming one of the 20th century’s most famous names in jazz -- it was Iola who came up with the brilliant idea for those famous “jazz goes to college” recordings. Albums like Jazz Goes to College and Jazz Goes to Oberlin won over a generation of young, devout Dave Brubeck Quartet fans. Their devotion skyrocketed the modest maestro to the sort of fame rarely experienced by jazz musicians, along with numerous artistic triumphs, record sales in the millions and acclaim for both his jazz pieces and extended, religious and humanitarian-inspired musical works of vaulting artistic ambition inspired by spirituality and idealism.

    “Without Iola, I don’t think the Dave Brubeck Quartet would have gone to the college campuses. She just started contacting universities and colleges, saying, ‘Look, they’ll come and play for next to nothing.’ And that’s what they did, barely making enough money from each gig to get to the next. But playing on the campuses built up a huge following of really devoted fans from the college and university level, who were going nuts for the quartet,” said Dan.

    With all that history in mind, Dan set about to find the ideal band for his project to honor Dave, who died on December 5, 2012, a day short of his 92nd birthday, and—in equal measure -- Iola, who died at 90 on March 12, 2014. While the project was in its early stages, Iola was still alive, and even went on the road with Dan and his brother Chris, a noted trombonist/bassist/composer. In fact, before Iola died, she managed to write incisive liner note commentary on a number of songs for which she wrote the lyrics, ranging from “In Your Own Sweet Way,” which Dave had composed as a musical portrait of her, to the snappy, "It’s a Raggy Waltz," the elegant “Strange Meadowlark,” and other songs graced with her poetic reflections on the seasons, love, and sadness.

    Mini-poems written in a romantic American grain, Iola’s lyrics – even though you’ve probably never heard them before – somehow immediately sound like the words to venerable standards from the American Songbook. When you hear them sung in the instrumental context of the tribute album, they sound like a perfect fit for Dave’s musical musings, a melody and word union made in songwriting heaven.

    After searching the Vancouver area for the best and most compatible musicians for his project, Dan handpicked saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, pianist Tony Foster and, in a surprise bonus, bassist Adam Thomas, who, to the bandleader’s surprise, also sings. In fact, Thomas was exactly what Dan was looking for to convey his mother’s lyric legacy. To Dan’s shock and delight, Thomas is an authentic, literate singer with a genuine appreciation and understanding of how lyrics work. An expressive interpreter of words and melody with an ability to swing, Thomas is completely free of over-the-top emoting and dramatically hammy gesturing and posturing, melodramatics hailed by some as signs of true vocal greatness. All about matter rather than manner, the singing bassist is exactly right for the role Dan has cast him in for his cool, calibrated celebration of his parents’ writing and composing gifts.

    While lyrics are certainly given their due, Dan’s fine band does get to stretch out a bit on pure instrumental renditions of Paul Desmond’s mega-hit, “Take Five,” and Dave’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Dan gets to display his fluent, melodic drumming style on these famous tunes’ odd time signatures. But the central, unifying focus of the total project, he stresses, is not on him or his first-rate Vancouver sidemen, but on his homage to his parents and their creative collaboration in both art and life.

    As part of a release-promoting, summer tour of Canada and an appearance in Saratoga, NY, Dan will perform material from Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck on September 20 with his quartet at the historic Weir Farm National Historic Site in his old hometown, Wilton. He’ll be accompanied by Adam Thomas, bass and vocals; Mike DeMicco, guitar; and Chuck Lamb, piano. Weir Farm preserves the former home and workplace of the distinguished painter, J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), a leading figure in American art and the development of American Impressionism.

    —Owen McNally, wnpr.org

  • Dan…pays homage to his parents in a most appropriate way…Urbane and amiable, this collection has been a long time coming and now that it is here, we can fully appreciate the art of Dave and Iola Brubeck.

    This is an overall fine recording of some oft-neglected songs
    deserving a wider audience.

                                        C. Michael Bailey, allaboutjazz.com                             +/-

    August 2015:

    Drummer Dan Brubeck, son of the late Dave Brubeck, pays homage to his parents in a most appropriate way. He puts the proper frame around the songbook created by his mother and father over their 70-year performance career. Using the saxophone quartet format his father blazed jazz trails with, Brubeck leads his quartet through 14 Brubeck originals at Vancouver’s Cellar recorded in August 2013. Bassist Adam Thomas proves to be a fine vocalist for the special material, never obscuring the pieces with technical attempts to impress. Urbane and amiable, this collection has been a long time coming and now that it is here, we can fully appreciate the art of Dave and Iola Brubeck.

    This release is programmed appropriately with perhaps Brubeck’s most well-known composition, “In Your Own Sweet Way.” Thomas' understated vocals set a focused setting that is followed by the rest of the group for the whole performance. A setting that heats up once the solos begin. On “Since Love Had its Way,” saxophonist Steve Kaldestad begins his solo primly before opening up and blowing full-bore. Pianist Tony Foster is aesthetically technical on the rare instrumental from this performance, “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” proving that the blues were a big part of Brubeck’s oeuvre.

    The group’s take on “The Duke” highlight's one of Brubeck’s more enduring pieces that was covered by Miles Davis from his great recording with Gil Evans, Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957). The performance closes appropriately with a lengthy “Take Five,” featuring Dan Brubeck in a driving introduction brought to a simmer by the rest of the band as the familiar famous 5/4 time. For the longest time, “Take Five” was the face of jazz. It is right that it finds its place in this concert by the original bandleader’s son. This is an overall fine recording of some oft- neglected songs deserving a wider audience.

    —C. Michael Bailey, allaboutjazz.com

Nominated for 2016 vocal Jazz album of the year!