Darius Brubeck - electric keyboards; Perry Robinson - clarinet; Jerry Bergonzi - tenor, soprano saxophones; Rick Kilburn - bass; Danny Brubeck - drums; Special guest:; Dave Brubeck - piano
In its Newport Jazz Festival premiere, Darius Brubeck's ensemble leaned more toward the avant garde/fusion side of things than either his famous father's classic quartet or the Two Generations of Brubeck band, which headlined this night at Carnegie Hall. Reflecting the influences of the pre-eminent progressive jazz bands of the day like Weather Report, The Eleventh House and The Brecker Brothers, Brubeck's eldest son presented provocative, electrified music with his handpicked ensemble (also known as Gathering Forces) which featured brother Danny on drums, Rick Kilburn on bass, Perry Robinson on clarinet and Jerry Bergonzi on tenor and soprano saxes.
The dynamic opener, which sounds strikingly close to Tail Spinnin'-era Weather Report, features a powerhouse tenor sax solo by Bergonzi followed by a provocative clarinet solo from Robinson and an adventurous synthesizer solo from the 28-year-old bandleader. Bergzoni's robust tenor tones and remarkably facile lines are prominently featured on the next number, which has Darius eschewing his ARP Odyssey synth for the mellower tones of the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Bergonzi, like his more famous contemporary and fellow Coltrane disciple, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, blows heroically on this potent track.
"Earthrise," dedicated to the astronauts of the Apollo 11 voyage, opens with a tumultuous freeform excursion before settling into the mellow and evocative theme, underscored by Danny Brubeck's sensitive drumming. Bergonzi and Robinson form a partnership on the frontline playing tight harmony lines before Bergonzi peels off for a blistering, Trane-inspired tenor solo against the atmospheric backdrop of Darius' synth string washes and gentle Rhodes accompaniment. Robinson follows with a harmonically provocative, envelope-pushing clarinet solo before Darius delves into another experimental romp on his pet synth. Brubeck's "Unisphere" is a suitably named showcase for the clarinetist's Middle Eastern-meets-klezmer blowing. Darius goes a bit over the top in painting a mesmerizing backdrop for Robinson here with his celestial synth string play. Father Dave joins the crew for a buoyantly swinging 6/8 number and the closer, a romp through "Yesterdays," the 1933 Jerome Kern tune (Perry Robinson cleverly quotes Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" on his solo). After a brief intermission, all of these same musicians returned to the stage (with trombonist Chris Brubeck, who had been at his own gig downtown at the Bottom Line) for a rousing set with Two Generations of Brubeck to conclude this family night of music at Carnegie Hall.
Darius Brubeck, born on June 14, 1947, is the oldest son of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. A gifted pianist-composer, he led his own groups during the 1970s and was also a part of the electronic experimental trio MBR with percussionist Muruga and clarinetist Perry Robinson. He toured the world with Two Generations of Brubeck and The New Brubeck Quartet, featuring his brothers Chris and Dan Brubeck with his famous father Dave. In 1983, Darius moved to Durban, South Africa, where he initiated the first degree course in Jazz Studies offered by an African university. He also formed Darius Brubeck and Afro Cool Concept with South Africa's premier alto saxophonist, Barney Rachabane. They released four albums on the Sheer Sound label. In 2004, he had a reunion with brothers Chris and Dan at the National Arts "Joy of Jazz Festival" in South Africa. That year he also directed the South African National Youth Jazz Band at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland. Also in 2004, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra commissioned a piece by Darius and Zim Ngqawana, setting music to extracts from speeches by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu which were read by Morgan Freeman at the New York premiere. Darius, Chris and Dan reunited again in 2010 for a "Brubecks Play Brubeck" tour of the United Kingdom. (Bill Milkowski)