Dave Brubeck Quartet. Feb 28 1958, Niedersachsenhalle Hannover
(Moosicus N1302-2. NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
This concert, recorded by NDR in Hannover on Friday 28th February 1958 captures one of the very first concerts by the classic line-up of the Dave Brubeck quartet: Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Gene Wright. The four had been sent by the US State department on a tour which started with UK and European dates, and then took them on to Poland, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), Iran and Iraq.
Other concerts from this tour have already found their way onto CD. Their Berlin concert on the previous Saturday Feb 22nd has been issued by Freshsound, and a subsequent Copenhagen date, March 5 has been realeased by Sony as "The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe, 1999, and reissued by 101 distribution in 2009.
This concert was recorded and transmitted by NDR, in whose annals it has special significance: it was the first time their outside broadcast van had ever left the radio station building in Hamburg to record jazz. NDR also note that it is one of the early treasures from more than 2000 live and studio recordings, recorded over sixty years of jazz, which currently 'slumber well-protected' in the broadcaster's vaults.
The things I find myself going back to in this recording are the saxophone solos of Paul Desmond. His tone is deliciously airy, ethereal, and yet there just never seems to be an absent-minded note, you really do get that authoritative Mozart sense, of a composition given to him from on high being transcribed and played. The stop choruses have him flying as free as a bird. And the gorgeous lyrical floatiness of For all We Know is mesmerising stuff, pure genius.
Brubeck is mostly inspirational too, but was having to deal with a very poor piano. On a couple of tracks – Someday My Prince and Two Part Contention, it is as if he's deliberately making the point in his solo that life does occasionally hand out a poor set of cards. The sleeve-notes make the point that jazz at the time - one “of late Nazi echos” - was still seen as music of lower value. The classical concerts in Hannover took place in the fine Stadthalle next door – where there would also have been, presumably, a far better instrument for Brubeck to play on.
1950s mono takes some getting used to, but it's worth it, this concert being of more than historical interest. It portrays one of the classic groups in jazz not long after the moment of its formation. The quartet, might, after all, have stayed together for just this tour and gone their separate ways. In the event, they were to prove indivisibly great for more than a decade.