DAVE BRUBECK — Jazz Impressions of Japan (review)

DAVE BRUBECK — Jazz Impressions of Japan album cover Album · 1964 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
The Dave Brubeck Quartet is pretty damn wonderful on their third ‘Impressions’ record, released not long after their commercial peak. If this album isn’t as well-known as monsters like ‘Time Out’ or ‘At Carnegie Hall’ I’d argue that it shouldn’t be too far behind. While it’s not a masterpiece, it’s an essential Brubeck work and deserves some extra attention.

A mostly contemplative set, there’s an ethereal quality to a lot of the pieces, as the influence of Japanese scales is skilfully interwoven with more familiar Brubeck fare – this is done most convincingly (to my ears) in the beautiful ‘Koto Song’ with its subtle cymbal and tom work from Morello and stand-out performances from Dave and Paul.

In fact, Morello employs a wide range of Japanese percussion instruments throughout, really adding to the Eastern tone of proceedings, ensuring this is one of the quartet’s most satisfying and distinctive records. While it is dominated by quieter moments and relaxed tempos, such as ‘Rising Sun’ with Desmond’s honeyed alto leading, or the mournful ‘Fujiyama’ which is another stand out, there is some snap to proceedings. Opener ‘Tokyo Traffic’ is jaunty and reflects the busy city, as does ‘Toki’s Theme’ (which also served as a characters theme song from a cancelled television series) and appears to be the song that has the most fun.

There are no missteps here; Dave Brubeck has soaked up the feel of urban and pastoral Japan while on tour and returned to New York to blend it with Cool Jazz in what is easily one of the Quartet’s best.
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