Brubeck’s Notes- Lyons Busy

As the Christmas season marches on, it’s time for another variation of ‘Desmond’s Quotes’- Christmas Edition.  This post focuses on the leader, Dave Brubeck, who was just as slick with the quotes and references as his friend Paul Desmond.  And just like Desmond, he often used festive tunes as fodder for his own solos.  This post highlights an early example of this.

Dave Brubeck organized the first edition of the quartet in 1951, and made recordings for Fantasy shortly there after.  Among the first tunes recorded in the August of ’51 by the quartet was a Brubeck original called “Lyons Busy”, a tune he wrote in honor of California radio host and jazz fan Jimmy Lyons.  “Lyons Busy” became Brubeck’s theme song for his radio appearances in the early 1950’s, playing the jingle at the beginning and sometimes the end of radio broadcasts (Brubeck’s “The Duke” would later replace “Lyons Busy” as his theme song on radio and TV appearances).  920x920

This early version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet featured Herb Barman on drums, Wyatt Ruther on bass (an early foreshadowing of Brubeck’s more well-known integrated group in 1958), with Desmond the constant member throughout the years.  For a 1951 recording, the sound quality is amazingly crisp and clear, although Desmond sounds a bit faint and Herb Barman’s drums are almost overpowering in the mix.  Desmond sounds tentative yet already has hints of his signature sound.  Due to the short time constraints, he only gets a chorus and a half to make his point.  Brubeck gets two, and it’s at the end of his first chorus that he sneaks in “Deck The Halls” amidst his chordal concatenations.  So brief and disguised is the reference that I missed it for the first seven years that I owned the album, discovering it a few months ago.

download (1)The holiday reference may have been a bit early (or late?) in August, but it made sense in December, when the Dave Brubeck Quartet made their first trip east to the East Coast.  They made an appearance at New York City’s famous jazz club Birdland, and luckily a short radio broadcast made during their appearance was recorded.  One of the tunes captured by the radio was “Lyons Busy”, played as an outro for the broadcast.  Desmond’s solo is perfunctory, probably watching the clock and opting to let Brubeck run the rest of the time out.  The audio isn’t the greatest, but it’s always neat to hear early Brubeck and Desmond, especially in a live setting.  The personnel on this date is the same as the August recording date.  In Brubeck’s solo, he again quotes “Deck The Halls”, this time in a much more blatant manner without the cloak of chords.  Out of the handful of recordings of “Lyons Busy”, these two are the only versions with Brubeck’s Christmas quote.  Try and find the quotes!

Tune:  “Lyons Busy”

Recorded:  August 1951 in Los Angeles, CA

Personnel:

  • Paul Desmond-  Alto Sax
  • Dave Brubeck-  Piano
  • Wyatt Ruther-  Bass

Herb Barman-  Drums

Tune:  “Lyons Busy”

Recorded:  December 1951 in New York City, NY

Personnel:

  • Paul Desmond-  Alto Sax
  • Dave Brubeck-  Piano
  • Wyatt Ruther-  Bass
  • Herb Barman-  Drums

Did you find them?  If not, “Deck The Halls” appears at the 1:37-mark in the studio version and at the 0:53-second mark on the live version.

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