Dave Brubeck began Monday evening’s performance by pointing out that there was a music stand onstage-something unusual for this band, three of whom have played together for 30 years. Brubeck excused its presence by saying he is under some pressure right now. Clint Eastwood is making a documentary about him, and there will be cameras rolling when he takes the stage at the Monterey Jazz Festival next month. “Clint’s been following us,” Brubeck told the sold-out crowd, “and he wants new stuff.” New stuff is exactly what Brubeck and his group then delivered, showing an amazing ability to grow and a great memory for prior appearances.
The first set featured a new Brubeck composition called “Crescent City Stomp,” dedicated to New Orleans. The song originated when the Brubeck band appeared at an outdoor music festival in New Orleans in the rain, where the unruly crowd refused to leave the fairgrounds at dusk, which was the official curfew for the event. The organizers had the Wild Tchoupitoulas lead a conga line through the gates-and then locked out the muddy patrons. Before Brubeck finished telling this story, his band had begun to play the instantly recognizable New Orleans backbeat. What followed when Brubeck sat down at the piano was an intricate second-line symphony, music as simple as the little story Brubeck had just told and as complex as the emotions that have sprung up around New Orleans in the long aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If this is anything to go by, Eastwood has nothing to worry about-Brubeck is as fertile as ever.
In the second set, Bobby Militello’s ravishing flute solo on “Koto Song” prepared the way for the immortal “Take Five,” which served, as it traditionally does, to feature the superb drummer Randy Jones.
In an unusual move, Brubeck returned to the stage for a solo piano encore, which he dedicated to the memory of his mother. Its title, “DziÄkujÄ,” is Polish for “thank you,” and it was intended to honor his mother’s love of Chopin. It made a touching and beautiful ending to a great night of music.