Pianist Dave Brubeck Pianist Dave Brubeck opened the Bank of America Paradise Jazz Series 2008-2009 Thursday night at Orchestra Hall. Brubeck, 88, ambled onto the stage.He wore a fitted black tuxedo, and his hair was a little tousled. Before he made it to the piano, the capacity crowd gave him a lengthy ovation. When they settled down, he introduced the band. Then he removed one of the seat cushions from the chair planted at the piano. He dug into the piano like a hungry man at the dinner table.
He opened with two slow-tempo tunes from his current album 50 years of Dave Brubeck Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1957-2007. I figured that the pianist would cruise through the evening. I was wrong. On the third tune, Brubeck called an up-tempo ditty that had a flunky and bluesy feel. At that point, alto saxophonist Bobby Millitello took over.
The first set, Millitello carried the bulk of the workload. Much like Brubeck’s running buddy of the 50’s alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, Millitello played duets with himself, and played bluesy and fast tempo tunes proficiently. Millitello bent forward when he soloed as if trying to pour the music out his horn. On Brubeck’s, Koto’s Song, It seemed that Millitello played two flutes simultaneously.
The quartet performed five songs. Then they took a coffee break. Not that they needed one, but audience needed a moment to catch their breath. It was mostly seniors in attendance. They were hyped like they were at a hip hop concert.
The second set was the best. The some in the audience shouted songs they wanted Brubeck to play. Two perfumed elder ladies seated in front of me bobbed their heads like they were at a heavy metal concert when Brubeck played Paul Desmond’s classic Take Five. At one point, I thought the old dames were going dance up and down the isles.
Millitello controlled the first set, and drummer Randy Jones the second. Jones took a lengthy and well crafted solo on Take Five. He had fragments of the melody flying about like they were coming from a snow blower. The capacity crowd roared when he finished.
As for Brucbeck, he never overexerted himself. He played some pretty preludes, but he delegated the bulk of the workload to Millitello and Jones. The pianist kept pace with his band-mates. From time to time, he tried to trip them up by playing a few extra chords, but they weren’t fooled by the pianist antics.
Brubeck put on a fun show, indeed. He was spunky, humorous, and charming. He ribbed hecklers who interrupted him while he introduced tunes, and he poked fun at his band-mates, particularly Millitello. The pianist was hospitable, treating the audience like guests at a Brubeck family cookout.