Not trying to be morbid or disrespectful or anything like that, but for the past five or six times that we’ve had the thoroughly enjoyable pleasure of seeing Dave Brubeck in concert, we say to ourselves, “Well, this will probably be the last opportunity we’ll have to hear him.”
And then he comes back again, and we see him again, and we think the same thing again.
Brubeck is 88 years old.
There are 88 keys on the piano.
You do the math.
On Wednesday night, the masterful Brubeck led his quartet into the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts in Albany, and once again delivered a sparkling, imaginative, passionate concert.
NOTE: Now we realize that a lot of people donated a lot of money to build this beautiful arts center, but don’t you think it’s going a little overboard that Brubeck performed on the D’Arcy-Brady Stage of the Kathleen McManus Picotte Recital Hall in the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of Saint Rose?
Walking onstage to a rousing standing ovation, Brubeck shuffled up to the microphone and said, “Thank you. I hope you do that after we play.” No problem there, as standing o’s were regularly – and rightfully – scattered throughout the two generous hour-long sets.
And the sets were filled with a delightful balance and variety of tunes – the funky “Crescent City Stomp” (with drummer Randy Jones turned the traditional New Orleans parade beat inside out and upside down), the beautiful ballad “Elegy,” a sizzling, all-bopped-up rendition of Gerswhin’s “I Got Rhythm,” a sweet ‘n’ wistful reading of Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You,” the bluesy whisper-to-a-wail of “Stormy Weather” (featuring a sensational sax solo from Bobby Militello).
And, yes, the white-haired, tuxedo-clad quartet wrapped up the show with a requisite run-through of “Take Five.” Brubeck didn’t even bother to mention that the song and the album that featured it (“Time Out”) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. He didn’t have to. Wednesday’s 11-minute version still provided surprises, even after all these years, as the bandmembers took the jazz classic and ran it through a variety of twists and turns, culminating in a torrential drum solo from Randy Jones.
But the band wasn’t done yet. Returning for an encore, Brubeck tickled out an old familiar melody on the Steinway, almost joking around. The musicians all laughed and slipped into the impromptu song, bassist Michael Moore shining with an appropriately woozy, off-balance solo. The next thing you know, the whole audience was all singing along:
“Show me the way to go home
I’m tired and I want to go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head
Where ever I may roam
On land or sea or foam
You will always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home”
You can also check out my review in the Times Union.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet performs at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass. at 8pm on Saturday, October 17. Also on the bill will be the Berkshire Jazz Youth Ensemble.