Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist, is probably best known for his 'Time Out' album (1959), featuring one of the few jazz crossover hits, the 5/8 time-signatured "Take Five" (written by Paul Desmond, saxophonist in his then Dave Brubeck Quartet). On Disc One of this 2004 release from audiophile label Telarc, Brubeck lovingly carresses and reminisces his way, on solo piano, through 14 standards that were popular in the World War II years - 1940-45. His performance yields both a nostalgic love of, and mastery of, these songs...and this time in his life, and a melancholy sense of loss and the beauty of those days writ large in music. The lengthy liner notes contain a Brubeck penned, insightful essay about these songs and those times, from a point of view that only someone who lived them can relate. The solo piano is all up front; the surrounds being used only to open up the sound a bit.
At 14 songs and 60+ minutes, all the highlites here are impossible to hit without turning this review into a short book: a weepingly slow version of "For All We Know", emotion pouring from every note; a mournful, melancholic "Something to Remember You By"; a gently majestic "Don't Worry 'bout Me; a version of "Where or When" that only a veteran of such talent could muster in his latter years; a perfectly dissonant, minor key version of "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" that simply floats from the speakers. "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" is perhaps the most poignant and telling song on the disc; in Brubeck's own "We Crossed the Rhine", he cuts loose with pure jazz excellence - exactly the oddly time-signatured stuff he's so well-known for; "The Last Time I Saw Paris" is autumnal, yet chirpy - almost carnival-like.
Disc Two of this set (in PCM CD only - with unlisted chapter-stops) is absolutely priceless for those who remember the wonderful Walter Cronkite, and perhaps, even the years 1940-45, and, most certainly, to anyone interested in the first-hand account and personal stories from those times...History comes to life as Cronkite and Brubeck discuss life and times - the world, the war, and the love of both icons for the music we call jazz. Both men were in the thick of it, and their remembrances are utterly enthralling!
I find myself wondering how they did it - surviving with such elegance, intelligence and grace...and humor. The importance of this release cannot be overstated, as fewer and fewer eyewitnesses to history survive. Engulf yourself in the years of standards set to jazz by the incomparable Dave Brubeck, the years of WWII and his reminiscences with the only Walter Cronkite this world will ever know. Thankyou Dave and Walter, and Telarc, for presenting us with such a wondrous package. Absolute genius in production and scope and execution. My highest recommendation.