Wednesday, October 24, 2012

THE DAVE BRUBECK TRIO

THE DAVE BRUBECK TRIO
© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved


Fantasy Records reissued all of the Dave Brubeck Trio recordings in a gatefold two LP set in 1982 that had been released originally on three Fantasy 10” LPs, Fantasy 3-1, 3-2 and 3-4. These three 10” LPs reissued all of the Dave Brubeck Trio recordings that had been originally released on twelve 78 RPM single records.  



Prior to the reissue of the gatefold two LP set, Fantasy F-24726, the twenty-four trio recordings had been available on two 12” LPs, Fantasy 3204 and 3205. These in turn were reissued again as 12” LPs on Fantasy LP 3331 and LP 3332.


The liner notes for the gatefold set reproduced the original liner notes that appeared on the three 10” LPs plus an introductory essay by Len Lyons reproduced below:

Liner notes to Fantasy F-24726 ® 1982,  Fantasy Records


The Dave Brubeck Trio, which made its home in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1949-51, played a role in jazz more far-reaching than its short lifespan would indicate. Fortunately for record collectors, the numerous strands of the Trio's significance can be traced directly to the recordings reissued in this collection. These recordings launched the career of Dave Brubeck, inaugurated Cal Tjader's prolific career on records, involved some near-comic, early attempts to record on tape instead of acetate, and turned out to be the seeds from which grew Fantasy Records, the world's largest jazz record producer. 

Although the Trio was the best showcase for Brubeck's talents as a pianist, his first love at the time was his experimental Octet. (The Octet eventually recorded, but not until the Trio had proved itself commercially. In the Octet, members were applying the techniques of modern classical composition to jazz.  They were not alone in these endeavors during the late 1940s; others were Claude Thornhill, Stan Kenton, Bob Graettinger, George Russell, and Gil Evans. While others were successfully writing for the large ensemble, Brubeck was the first to succeed in navigating these "cool" waters with a small combo.

The Trio enabled Dave to express his classical inclinations through a more spontaneous, less cumbersome vehicle, one more suitable to jazz. Their first records—"Blue Moon," "Indiana," "Tea for Two," and "Laura"—were (as noted in the accompanying reprinted liners) greeted with awards and critical acclaim. Listeners were no doubt responding to one of Dave's greatest pianistic virtues: the vigor of his colorful, rhythmically shifting block chords. In these and the other selections, there are the qualities that defined his persona over the years: fugue-like interplay among the instruments; clear (sometimes simple) thematic statements; a balanced group sound; and excursions into polytonality. In short, the Trio sessions established Brubeck as a unique pianist. 
The four tracks named above were "cut" (and that term is used advisedly) at Sound Recorders studio in San Francisco. The studio was experimenting with the use of erasable tape being developed by the Ampex Company of nearby Redwood City. For more than two hours, the tape machine failed to hold its speed, playing back music more akin to Spike Jones than to jazz. After the engineer admitted defeat, the Trio finished its session on time by cutting the four tracks on acetate within a half hour, allowing for only one take on each tune. 

Brubeck was not the only one to get long mileage out of those 30 minutes. These records were Tjader's debut, and their popularity attracted the attention of George Shearing, one of the Trio's early admirers. Tjader's reputation was made with the Shearing Quintet in 1954. Listening to the way Cal hangs with Dave on their vibes/piano collaborations, it becomes clear how the Trio prepared Cal for his major role in Shearing's group. 

The Trio sessions are also the proverbial acorn from which a large, long-limbed oak has since grown. Those four tunes cut at Sound Recorders were released in 1949 by Coronet, a local label owned by Dixieland trombonist Jack Sheedy. They had been pressed by Circle Record Company, owned by Max and Sol Weiss. The Trio's records were popular in Seattle and Portland, where the group often performed, and—even after Sheedy's company had folded—orders for them kept coming in. The Weisses, with Brubeck, decided to buy the Trio's "masters," and on that modest foundation they erected a new company, naming it after a popular science fiction magazine. Fantasy currently houses the Milestone, Prestige, and Galaxy labels, too, surpassing all competitors in the size of its in-print jazz catalog. One might say that it is the company's poetic duty to return these seminal Brubeck sessions to circulation. 

The Dave Brubeck Trio was disbanded in 1951, when Dave seriously injured his back in a swimming accident. As most listeners may know, Dave's next band was the Quartet that featured Paul Desmond on alto sax. On the strength of their college tours and subsequent Fantasy LPs, the Quartet became, perhaps, the most widely popular group in jazz. Dave was on the cover of Time magazine in 1954. From 1954-69, when the Quartet recorded for Columbia, Dave Brubeck gradually became a household name. Essentially, Brubeck had not changed. His assets were the same. as those revealed in the Trio sessions: harmonic originality, rhythmic vigor, intellectual purpose, and a good group sound.

—Len Lyons


(Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, and Ron Crotty - photo by Tom King)



The Coronet 78s, 103 with LAURA backed by INDIANA and 104 with BLUE MOON backed by TEA FOR TWO, were best sellers for the trio as noted by Len Lyons’ notes above.  The familiar green and white label was also issued in two shades of purple as seen in the third example below.




(matrix numbers J-103-A COR554 and J-103-B COR-553)


(matrix numbers J-104A COR551 and J-104-B COR552)


(matrix numbers J-103-A COR554 and J-103-B COR-553)




The composer credit on LAURA made the frequent error of spelling David Raksin’s name as Raskin and a similar error was made on BLUE MOON where Richard Rodgers name was spelled as Rogers.  These errors would be repeated on the labels when the Weiss brothers launched the Fantasy label.




(matrix numbers J-103-A COR554 and J-103-B COR-553)
(matrix numbers J-104A COR551 and J-104-B COR552)

The popular science fiction magazine mentioned in Len Lyons notes was THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION and the first 78 RPM singles released by the new label used the exact logo type and design that the magazine used on its cover.



The magazine owners no doubt sent the Weisses a “Cease and Desist” letter and the now familiar Fantasy logo was introduced on subsequent pressings released by the new label as seen on the examples of Fantasy 504 and 505 above.


When the Weiss brothers launched a second label in 1951 they borrowed the name from another science fiction magazine, GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, and came up with their own typeface to avoid any copyright problems like the one they encountered with Fantasy. (The author would like to thank reader Alan Parr for bringing this to his attention.)



The author acquired a test pressing in 2008 that might have been part of the recording session at Sound Recorders where the Coronet master recordings were made.


Two of the tunes on the test pressing became part of the twenty-four tunes released by the Dave Brubeck Trio, LAURA and 'S WONDERFUL, but only LAURA was released on the initial Coronet recordings.  IDAHO was in the repertoire of the Dave Brubeck Trio, but it was not released commercially.  The fourth tune, BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT, includes a vocalist and it also never made it to commercial release.  The versions of LAURA and 'S WONDERFUL are alternate takes, not the versions released on Coronet and Fantasy.


AFRTS Interview - Sound Recorders Test Pressing - LAURA

 Sound Recorders Test Pressing - ‘S WONDERFUL Sound Recorders Test Pressing - IDAHO Sound Recorders Test Pressing - BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT

I wrote to Dave Brubeck when I acquired the test pressing to inquire if he had any recollection of its origin. His reply is reproduced below:




A definitive answer as to the origin of this test pressing might be possible if the test pressings mentioned in Len Lyon’s notes that were the source of the Coronet 78 RPM releases still exist at the Fantasy Records master library in Berkeley, now owned by the Concord Music Group.  If indeed they still exist and are similar “audiodisc” blanks like the test pressing discussed here that would confirm it was created at the same or a later session at Sound Recorders studio in San Francisco.

I suggested that the vocalist might be Frances Lynn as she sang with the "8" and the Dave Brubeck Trio at a concert at Mills College in 1950.  If any Brubeck scholars or specilaists recognize the vocalist I would appreciate hearing from you. Lynn is seen in the photo below from the Oakland Tribune.

Most "airchecks" from broadcasts are continuous without breaks between the tunes, and most capture the entire broadcast including announcer comments.  This acetate contains four breakdowns of IDAHO on one side and four complete takes of the four tunes on the other side, no studio chatter or announcer comments.  



The program reproduced below lists different personnel for the "8" than those identified in the above photo, perhaps two different concerts?





© 2012, James A. Harrod, all rights reserved, copyright protected.