Dave Brubeck's harmonic characteristics and use of time signatures go back almost three decades when he began traveling the world with a famous quartet. His new quartet captivated a full house at the Tawes Theater on the University of Maryland campus last night. The pianist opened the evening with W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" in a version that began conventionally but along the way incorporated some typically Brubeckian jagged rhythms in the midst of stride piano and walking boogie-woogie. Later he became reflective on a Chopinesque composition of his own, "Thank You."
Son Chris Brubeck played Fender bass, an instrument that doesn't altogether blend with the group's sound, but he keeps good time with it. His trombone on "Big Bad Basie" was out of the 1930s, mellow and then gruff with a departing belch into the mike.
Butch Miles, in his new job for only a week after four years with Count Basie, has adapted his lavish and extroverted big-band drumming to the subtleties of a foursome. On "Take Five" he built a solo around a sustained one-handed (left) roll punctuated by independent accents on the toms, both a tour de force and a model of structure.
On that same piece tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi eerily evoked the spirit of Paul Desmond and then took apart the late altoist's piece and put it back together.
A standing ovation and cries of "Bravo!" brought the quartet back for two encores.
The concert was part of the Ninth University of Maryland International Piano Festival and competition which concludes tomorrow.