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Image Entertainment presents
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck (2001)

"There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks, and there's the way I like to play, which is dangerously."
- Dave Brubeck

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 29, 2003

Stars: Dave Brubeck, Hedrick Smith
Other Stars: Stanley Crouch, George Wein, Ted Gioia, Herb Wong, Ira Gitler, Joe Morello, Iola Brubeck, David Redfern, Karlheinz Drechsel, Louis Armstrong, Eugene Wright, Russell Gloyd
Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:56m:46s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 014381954722
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A-BB B-

DVD Review

If someone owns any jazz album, chances are good that they own the seminal Dave Brubeck Quartet album, Time Out, in which Brubeck and his collaborators attempted to move jazz beyond the standard Kansas City 4/4 rhythm. Though not ultimately successful, they managed to move highly intellectualized jazz into the popular consciousness in a way that no one else has managed before or since. This PBS documentary takes a look at the career of Brubeck and his music.

Hedrick Smith interviews Brubeck and a variety of critics and collaborators with Brubeck to give a perspective on his career. Intriguingly, Brubeck started off as an actual cowboy, and intended to be a rangehand until he decided to take up music instead; he managed to get a degree in music despite being at that time unable to read music. Smith suggests that the freedom of the range and the cowboy ethos when married with the classical technique (Brubeck studied under Darius Milhaud, one of Les Sixe, giving him impeccable classical credentials to boot) are the impetus for the innovative and highly independent approach that Brubeck gives to his music.

This classical background often surfaces in Brubeck's music, and some of the concert clips here include his improvisational work on Bach. But it was in collaborating with jazz musicians, most notably alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, where he most brightly shone. The documentary tracks the destitution of his early career and a break with Desmond, to an eventual reunion and the jaw-dropping innovation of Time Out, with its bizarre 9/8, 3/4, and 5/4 time signatures, the latter prominently featured in the best-selling jazz single of all time, Take Five, co-written by Desmond and Brubeck (though Desmond gets sole credit on the music).

Brubeck's career was certainly controversial, and the film takes a look at several different kinds of controversy, both musical and political. Brubeck's cool "west coast" style was criticized for its intellectual nature and lack of swing. Columbia Records had no idea what to do with Time Out, and initially refused to even release it at all. At the same time, his integrated quartet caused a huge stir in the South, causing him to lose many concert bookings due to having, and refusing to replace, a black bassist, Eugene Wright. The bassist is briefly present here, demonstrating his deep appreciation for Brubeck's efforts toward integration. The contradictions of Brubeck's career, such as the wild world of jazz and his staid and completely square home life, are also examined.

The highlights, however, as expected are the musical interludes, with excerpts from a number of live performances over the years. Even though he's now in his eighties, Brubeck still plays much the same as he had fifty years ago. In this youth-obsessed society, it's always a pleasure to see someone of that age being appreciated and still being vital and creative. It's not clear why Dave Brubeck needed to be 'rediscovered' since he never really went away, but his career and music are certainly worth celebrating.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame program is presented in its original made-for-television ratio. Much of it is shot on video, with the shortcomings one would anticipate from a program in that medium. The picture tends to be fairly soft much of the time. Colors are decent, and texture is frequently excellent, most notably in Brubeck's craggy face and infectious smile.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono is acceptable for a documentary, though somewhat lacking from the musical standpoint. The audio is quite clean, without significant noise or hiss most of the time. There is decent depth and presence, despite the limitations of mono, without sounding overly compressed. Of course, the 1950s and 1960s performances are more limited, but still acceptable for important historical documents.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
7 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The extras are a set of seven featurettes. Three of them are more interview segments with Dave and his longtime wife Iola regarding creativity, looking through his memorabilia, and discussing their collaborations (Iola frequently acts as his lyricist). These are mildly interesting, though somewhat duplicative with the main program. More interesting are live performances of Unsquare Dance with the London Symphony and Take Five, as well as an extensive clip of rehearsal of In Your Own Sweet Way. The last of these will be most interesting to musicians and students of music, as Brubeck and the conductor attempt to verbalize the approaches they're taking to the jazz idiom. Finally, there's a short clip of Brubeck backstage in Berlin. In all, these provide over half an hour of supplemental material.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A brief but interesting look at the fascinating Brubeck, with some valuable extras including live performances. Any jazz or music lover will want to check out this disc.

 


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