Brubeck’s Notes – Someday My Prince Will Come

Following up on Mr. Lodge’s excellent analysis of Paul Desmond’s solo on a live performance of “Someday My Prince Will Come” dating from the 1970’s, here’s another post with another look at another live performance of “Someday My Prince Will Come”. This performance stems from an early 1960’s appearance by the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, and this time the focus is on Mr. Brubeck.

The Music

The Tune: “Someday My Prince Will Come”

Recorded: 22 September, 1962 at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey, CA

Personnel:

  • Paul Desmond- Alto Sax
  • Dave Brubeck- Piano
  • Eugene Wright- Bass
  • Joe Morello- Drums

Nights are always rather chilly on the California coast, especially the further north you go. Despite the cold weather, if this track is any indication, the Brubeck Quartet was cooking. While Paul Desmond was his usual tasty self, but Brubeck turned in a particularly punchy solo, full of quotes that lead one to believe he had something on his mind.

Brubeck begins the song with his usual intro, setting the tempo at a healthy clip. The rest of the group comes in and the fun begins. Unlike Brubeck’s initial 1957 recording of the tune, Joe Morello lays down a polyrhythmic beat at the beginning by playing a fast 4/4 over the waltzing 3/4 of the tune. It makes for a rather groovy, head-bobbing effect.

Desmond blows a few choruses of solid sax, then tastefully exits, with Brubeck copying Desmond’s parting phrase. Brubeck starts off politely, building to a flurry of notes before starting a rhythmic figure. Then, in what almost seems like an accident, Brubeck practically stumbles into the melody of George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”. Having started the melody by playing it in octaves, Brubeck switches to appropriate chords and continues to play Gershwin’s melody, adding a bluesy flair at the end of the melody. He then gets more adventurous by restating the melody with some dense polytonal chords.

Brubeck moves to a more rhythmic pattern with his full chords when, wonders upon wonders, he again moves into another Gershwin composition, using one of the themes from “Rhapsody In Blue” as inspiration for the next chorus of his solo. He throws out bits and segments of the Gershwin theme, sounding more like Thelonious Monk, before yet again (he was really on a roll) slipping into another song. It’s not Gershwin this time, but the old nursery rhyme song “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”, cloaked by Brubeck deliciously dissonant chords. He then builds to a thunderous climax where he moves up the musical scale before cooling things back down with a light waltz’s passage and then taking the tune out. The audience, sensing the end is near, clap appreciatively. Brubeck may have been bombastic, but he wore it proudly and used it fantastically.

So what gives with the Gershwin quotes? On the surface, Brubeck’s usage of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” isn’t unusual; many jazz musicians used and use the classic melody to season their solos. Brubeck, however, has used it in special situations before. For instance, while trading fours with Joe Dodge on “Lullaby In Rhythm” (found on the album ‘Jazz at College of the Pacific’), Brubeck deftly slips in the “I Got Rhythm” melody before moving right along (get it? Oh Brubeck, you trickster you). Back at Monterey, it’s not hard to imagine why Brubeck, in the midst of a polyrhythmic waltz, would throw “I Got Rhythm” into the mix.  As for the “Rhapsody In Blue” reference, I’m not sure what it’s significance was, if any. Perhaps Brubeck figured since he already used one Gershwin tune, he might as well use another one?

For fun, I looked up George Gershwin’s birth date.  He was born September 26, 1898.  Brubeck’s appearance at Monterey was on September 22.  Coincidence?  Who knows!  As usual, here’s Brubeck’s performance, followed by clips of the songs he quoted.  Can you find them?

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