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Two albums of previously unissued material celebrate Dave Brubeck’s centenary, including an alternative Time Out from the classic 1959 sessions. Time Out brought ‘Take Five’ to public consciousness, becoming an unlikely pop hit in 1961 and marking a highpoint of jazz in popular culture. The tricky 5/4 piece gave the quartet much trouble, and the outtake is rather hectic. It features a brief piano solo – on the album, there was no piano solo, while the million-selling single, released in 1961, was a different take again.

With ‘Blue Rondo’, the theme-statement is stronger than the released version, which has some slips, while solos are less coherent. A beautiful alternative version of the ballad ‘Strange Meadowlark’ features Brubeck’s finest solo on the release. The final tracks, ‘I’m In a Dancing Mood’ and ‘Watusi Jam’, didn’t appear on the 1959 release – they were replaced by ‘Pick Up Sticks’ and ‘Everybody’s Jumpin’, achieved in one take, so there were no alternatives to include here. ‘I’m In a Dancing Mood’ is the only non-original recorded during the 1959 Time Out session.

Lullabies was recorded when Brubeck was approaching 90, and it’s his last solo recording. There are no pyrotechnics – it’s all at a slow tempo, but shows the pianist-composer’s harmonic and melodic imagination undimmed. Standards include ‘Summertime’, ‘Sleepy Time Down South’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’, together with originals such as ‘Koto Song’ and ‘Briar Brush’. From this distance, the furore over Brubeck’s popular success, and the reaction to it, recede into history – leaving us his effortless mastery.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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