Dave Brubeck Quartet
Despite the rigors of touring (don't get him started on the subject), 84-year-old jazz legend and pianist Dave Brubeck still loves his job. Which is one of the reasons why his quartet's performance at the Lincoln Theater on Wednesday night was a pleasure to hear and see.
The concert kicked off the first Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, which is showcasing a remarkable variety of artists at numerous venues around town through Sunday. But it's unlikely that any of the remaining performances will prove a more heartening experience than witnessing the delight Brubeck still takes in collaborating with his longtime band mates: saxophonist-flutist Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore and drummer Randy Jones.
In fact, when he wasn't busy unfurling a fiendishly methodical arrangement ("London Flat, London Sharp" had his hands moving in opposite directions, chromatically) or adding a whimsically ruffled chorus to an old blues progression, or subtly altering a familiar harmonic scheme, Brubeck often would lean back and smile as if nothing pleased him more than the sound of Militello's darting alto, Moore's eloquently bowed interludes and Jones's eruptive solos.
Then the pianist would go back to work, augmenting his signature block chords and occasionally striding rhythms with reconfigured melodies and playful asides. The evening opened with a selection of tunes dedicated to Hurricane Katrina victims, including "Stormy Weather," a terrific showcase for Militello's soulful alto, and "Over the Rainbow," quietly introduced and tenderly re-harmonized by the pianist. Capping the concert, as doubtless everyone suspected it would, was a reprise of Paul Desmond's "Take Five," a performance insinuating and invigorating by turns.
Among the festival's offerings on tap is Saturday's free concert at the Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument grounds, featuring Wayne Shorter, Wallace Roney, Chuck Brown and several other performers.
-- Mike Joyce
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
You'd think with a name like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a band might limit itself to a certain kind of music. Not so this Los Angeles-based trio, which assuredly genre-hopped for 100 minutes at the 9:30 club Wednesday.
Old fans of the garage-rock group -- as old as followers of a band formed in 1998 can get, anyway -- might have thought they were at the wrong show when vocalist Peter Hayes came onstage solo and performed three Dylanesque songs with an acoustic guitar and harmonica. But "Complicated Situation," "Fault Line" and "Devil's Waitin' " were merely selections off Black Rebel's radically different fourth album, "Howl," which finds Hayes, fellow vocalist-bassist Robert Levon Been and drummer Nick Jago alternately going unplugged, a little bit country, and playing around with piano and some brass.
The show didn't stay acoustic for long, with Jago and Been joining Hayes for twangy "Howl" opener "Shuffle Your Feet." The group leaned heavily on its new release, flaunting its versatility whether mimicking the Beatles on "Promise" (for which Hayes whipped out a trombone) or evoking an Irish hymn on the lovely harmonium-and-organ show closer, "Open Invitation." But the trio also supplied a lot of the sludgy, guitar- and bass-heavy rock that it's known for, including favorite "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)."
The crowd seemed relieved that it no longer had to wonder.
-- Tricia Olszewski
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club started its 9:30 club show acoustically, then got revved up.