After some correspondence with a reader, I opted to change the date for this recording. You can find the illuminating comments below this post in the comment section. To celebrate, I’ve included another track from the album. Enjoy!
This is a big one. The search for this album (as well as another rare Brubeck album) is the reason why I got into vinyl. This quite rare bootleg album is only available on vinyl, and as such the only way to hear it is by tracking down a copy. I took up the challenge of finding it in 2012, and after a near-miss, found a copy in 2016. Sweet success.
Tune: You Go To My Head
Tune: ‘Swanee River’
Recorded (most-likely) 21 November, 1964 in Chicago, IL
- Dave Brubeck: Piano
- Paul Desmond: Alto Sax
- Eugene Wright: Bass
- Joe Morello: Drums
As is common with bootlegs, information like dates and location are dubious. Other than the year, the album doesn’t disclose any other pieces of info about the recording. Looking online, I found a June 1964 date and ‘Chicago’ listed as the location. ‘You Go To My Head’ is a tune that frequently appeared in the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1960’s set lists, and for good reason- it was a favorite of Paul Desmond’s. He constantly found inspiration in it, and Brubeck often used the ballad as a springboard for his own inspired experimentation with jazz and classical forms. This particular outing finds Desmond sounding rather plaintive, playing simple figures and patterns, his alto sax sounding more like a flute at some points. It’s Brubeck’s solo that is quite impressive, swelling from single lines to full, dense chords. At one point, the drummer lays out and the bassist softly accompanies Brubeck, and it’s here that solo reaches its climax, with Brubeck jumping from pianissimo to forte and back again. The performance is unlike any other recorded outing on the song.
-Updated April 2017-
‘Swanee River’ was an old tune Brubeck first recorded on his ‘Gone With The Wind’ album from 1959, and it frequently showed up on his 1960’s live set lists. Desmond stretches out on this outing, playing some punchy sax, with Brubeck matching him with his own comping. Brubeck’s own solo builds to a mighty thunder before trading humorous fours with Morello. Brubeck and the group do a crowd-pleasing (and probably accidental and spontaneous) break before playing the bridge at half-time. It’s a fun performance of a tired song that wouldn’t seem to hold a lick of interest for a modern jazz musician.
Another consequence of a bootleg album is the often poor sound quality due to unprofessional recording equipment and mic-placement. The source of this recording sounds like a recording machine placed backstage, as the piano and saxophone sound distant. Yet, in spite of that, in a way it almost benefits from this aural placement. After all, when we go to a concert hall to hear a band, we don’t hear it in perfect balance; depending on where we sit determines how and what we hear. This recording gives us a rather life-like ‘you are there in the audience’ audio presence. As for the sound quality, it’s pretty clear for a bootleg, in stereo, no less. There is some tape wow and flutter, resulting in brief changes in audio quality during this track.
As a whole, this concert sounds like it was good one, but Desmond doesn’t seem to be too inspired. He plays well enough, but at many times throughout the record he plays like his heart just isn’t in it. Brubeck and the rest of the group rise to the occasion, though. This album is nice document of the Dave Brubeck Quartet during the mid-1960’s, playing tunes that they normally didn’t record, such as Brubeck’s own ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ and ‘Osaka Blues’, and ‘Cable Car’. Brubeck’s spoken introductions are cool bonuses.
I figured I should start using an actual grading scale. The cover used an old picture of the ‘classic’ Brubeck group. For a bootleg, the album art is actually kinda cool. Emphasis on kinda. The album jacket looks like its had an eventful life, as told by the spotting, ring-wear, and the green sticker. The design is interesting, if not patriotic.
As previously mentioned, bootleg albums rarely had much in terms of information, and the information that is mentioned is usually incorrect. And liner notes? Forget about it. This album hits all those points. The first tune, labeled here as ‘The Old Folks At Home’, is really the old Stephen Foster ditty ‘Swanee River’. ‘Old Folks’ is a rarely used alternate title. And while there is no song called ‘You Go To My Heard’, ‘You Go To My Head’ was a popular jazz standard and a favorite of Desmond’s. Do bootlegers do this on purpose or are they just ignorant?
Interestingly, this album was apparently made in Italy. I say interesting, because I find it strange that an Italian bootleg record company somehow got a hold of a bootleg recording of the Brubeck group made in Chicago. Rather random and quite a feat for an Italian company. The album cover’s construction and material (thin, flexible card-stock with no pasted-on artwork/liner notes) is similar to many European record jackets produced back then, so who knows. Maybe it IS an Italian pressing… Whatever the source, I’m glad somebody put the record out. Live Brubeck is the best Brubeck.
I’m not familiar with the Jazz Connoisseur label, and this is the only record pressed by them in my collection. A quick google of ‘Jazz Connoisseur label’ took me to a Discogs page, where it called the label an “Italian bootleg label specializing in rare live jazz recordings”. Many of the records that it put out were of performances mostly from the 1960’s, with a few from the 40’s and 50’s. To add fuel to the fire, a few of the records said they were made in ‘Isreal’ on the record label but made in Italy on the cover of the same record. Oh, the fun of bootlegs.
The music note as a ‘J’ is pretty ingenious, as is making the repeating letter in the company’s name red. Comically and ironically, despite this being a bootleg record, the people that pressed the record have strong feelings about copyrights. They included a lengthy blurb on their labels admonishing anybody from illegally copying the record, because shame on somebody from making money at the artist’s expense! Dave Brubeck was strongly against bootleg recordings of his group, which may explain why there are relatively little bootleg recordings of his group.
The vinyl is heavy and solid, characteristic of vinyl pressed prior to the 1970’s. In other words, an authentic first-pressing, if those words can be applied to a bootleg album. Again, it makes me wonder how an Italian company pressed the record soon after the tape was made and made it available in the U.S. so quickly. That’s a lot of work (and money) for a bootleg. If someone asked me, I’d say this record label was American through and through. Italy? Nope. Capitalism at work. The bootleg ‘Isreal’.
The seller described the vinyl as VG, but the vinyl is clean and beautifully quiet, in glorious stereo no less! I’d label the vinyl as EX, even Mint at some sections. Sometimes the eBay gods shine down and show you favor.
The Place of Acquisition
Periodically since 2012, I would do google searches for this record and another rare Brubeck record, hoping that I’d find it for sale on Discogs or eBay. One afternoon, while making one of those half-hearted searches, I stumbled upon an eBay sale for the other rare album. Naturally, somebody had narrowly beat me to it, but I decided to peruse the seller’s profile. About 20 records down on the 3rd page (yeah I was desperate), I found this album for sale. I hit ‘buy now’ without even looking at the price, something I normally wouldn’t recommend, but crazy times call for crazy measures. The guy described the record cover as VG and the vinyl as VG+, but for $8.00(!!!!!!!!!!) I could definitely live. A week and a half later, I put the record on my turntable and was blown away by the sound quality. Some jazz collectors consider an original Hank Mobley Blue Note album their bar-none trophy album. For me, this album is my trophy. Sometimes I just look at and smile. Believe me, it’s not as creepy as it sounds!