Immortal for the Time Being

Dave Brubeck Quartet. At the Lobero Theatre, Wednesday, August 23.

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

Brubeck-Web.gifThe world has many more wonders than seven, and jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck certainly must be counted among them. In everything but his playing, Brubeck, 85, has pared his energy usage down to the bare minimum. His dry, laconic, and startlingly amusing remarks to the audience may be delivered in a monotone, but they reveal a wry, alert intelligence.

The minute Brubeck’s fingers touch the keys he becomes ageless, a mature master at the height of his powers. One gets the feeling that he could go on forever. Jazz is by definition open-ended and improvisational. The jazz musician is obliged, more by his own conscience than the audience’s insistence, to explore possibilities. It is the nature of the beast. So, even when the quartet gave us the inevitable “Take Five,” Brubeck and his crew of white-haired virtuosos found new lines of inquiry to pursue, and new ways to state old ideas.

And Brubeck is not the only outstanding talent in the quartet that bears his name. His sax and flute player Bobby Militello was also very impressive at the Lobero on Wednesday. Militello has “only” been with the group for 24 years. He is a worthy successor to Paul Desmond, without really sounding at all like him — except when it’s appropriate. As a flute player, he re-forms the quartet around his instrument, and with numbers such as the flute-featuring “Over the Rainbow,” the ensemble seems to have always been so constituted.

Militello has a commanding presence and personality. Some masters of the saxophone seem introverted and esoteric, while others appear to act mainly as conduits for vast reservoirs of sound. Militello is clearly in control of his horn, and just as clearly directs the music outward. It is truly wonderful to hear him tuck an impossible number of notes into every nook and cranny of a melody without ever distorting it or making it carry more than is good for it. Every time I hear him, I am more impressed. And that goes for the entire quartet, too.

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