in performance: the brubeck brothers quartet

It’s easy to dismiss a band like The Brubeck Brothers Quartet as a mere generational knock-off of a landmark jazz innovator. True to the name, bass guitarist/bass trombonist Chris Brubeck and sibling drummer Dan Brubeck are sons of the iconic pianist Dave Brubeck. But the clan shares far more than a preference for funky time signatures. The younger Brubecks have played with their father, as well as with each other, for over 35 years and have become more a little versed in their own fatherly jazz dialogue.

In fact, the most immediate and distinctive aspect about the brothers’ performance last night at Berea College’s Phelps-Stokes Auditorium was that the rhythm section continually called the shots. Sure, pianist Chuck Lamb (from the ‘70s fusion band Dry Jack) and guitarist Mike DeMicco were featured liberally. But the program’s drive, swing and all around animation wwere very much of Brubeck-ian design, as in the bossa nova and tango colors on electric bass and drums that introduced Dance of the Shadows.

More often than not, once a band voice for a tune was established – which was regularly, as the majority of the repertoire sported round robin soloing – it was Dan Brubeck who turned up the rhythmic fire.

Sometimes that worked neatly, as in the light, circular acceleration he provided on brushes during West of One or the way the drums picked up on the overall ensemble groove (initiated first on piano, then on guitar) during Eclipse.

But the effect was a little more intimidating on two classics by daddy Dave.

On Blue Rondo a la Turk, the Brubecks let the Turkish sense of timekeeping speak for itself while emphasizing, in far more Americanized terms, a fervent blues underpinning.

The show-closing Take Five, in turn, was built around a clever New Orleans second line-style beat by brother Dan that veered freely into contemporary funk. But then it succumbed to a barrage of rock star drum figures full of purposely impressive technique and, as a result, a touch of indulgence.

Still, this was smartly played stuff that the half-collegiate/half community crowd was openly and enthusiastically receptive to. And that should be more than enough to do the Brubeck family name very proud.

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