I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes, I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier...
Donald Fagen - "New Frontier" (1982)
Dave Brubeck has enjoyed the status of "legend" for so many years now, it is hard to imagine the impact this concert had in 1953. The Brubeck Quartet’s appeared at Oberlin College in March of that year was something of a breakthrough for a couple of reasons. Until then, jazz was still associated with “gin-joints,” and a pretty unsavory lifestyle. Brubeck’s clean, clear arrangements showed an audience of classical music snobs just how sophisticated his music could be. The fact that Jazz At Oberlin was one of the first commercially released live jazz recordings is of no small import either.
Brubeck’s cohorts that night included bassist Ron Crotty, drummer Lloyd Davis, and longtime collaborator Paul Desmond on saxophone. All four were on fire, and in Davis’ case, it was almost literal as he was suffering from a 103 degree temperature.
“These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)” opens the set up with some fine sax from Desmond. When Brubeck takes a piano solo, the crowd erupts, as it would throughout the night. The classic “Perdido” follows, and while the song is most often linked to Duke Ellington, Brubeck’s quartet gives it an energetic reading. Desmond in particular really stands out, as does the bass of Crotty.
The group’s selection of material was superb, and next up is the beautiful Hoagy Carmichael ballad “Stardust.” Sometimes Dave Brubeck’s piano sounds best when he hangs back a bit, as he does here. Once again, the crowd roars its approval at the end of his solo. Another huge response greets both Brubeck’s and Desmond’s leads in another great tune, “The Way You Look Tonight.”