It’s a cliché, “There is a first time for everything.” The problem with that is the possible variation on each individual everything.
As an example are early infatuations lesser versions of falling in love? I can remember all the women I was infatuated with beginning in my Buenos Aires kindergarten. Was my miss-a-heartbeat-every-second in the 8thgrade infatuation with the delicious almond-eyed Anna María Ramos (7thgrade) only that? Is falling in love (and I have done so four times since Miss Ramos) spectacular only on that first occasion?
I remember vividly that day sometime in 1962 when my friend Robert Hijar at Mexico City College put a record on a turntable. It was Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd Jazz Samba. It was like nothing I had ever heard. Shortly after I discovered Zoot Sims’ New Beat — Bossa Nova and Bud Shank/Clare Fischer Bossa Nova Jazz Samba. Bossa nova has not been the same or as good (mostly insipid) since those first times and particularly that Getz/Byrd Jazz Samba.
My adventure in first times of the sonic kind really began in Austin, Texas in 1960 at St. Ed’s High School. I was a boarder but a day student, William B. Schieffer (who drove a blue/green and white Nash Metropolitan and everybody made fun of it) told me, “Alex the best jazz quartet around is the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I suggest you go to their concert at the University of Texas next week.” I went and I was completely infatuated (?) with the sound which was a sound unlike any I had ever heard. I played the alto sax in the school band and even though I was a middle-of-the-road musician my sound with the horn was smooth and sweet. I was dully impressed by Paul Desmond. So after buying Shelly Manne’s Oodles of Noodles (my first ever jazz album in the 9th grade) my second album was Time Out in the 11th.
I went back to Mexico in 1961 and in my Downbeat Magazine I read about the quartet’s Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. I wrote to a friend (who was in Austin but was returning to Mexico City) called Milton Hernandez to buy me the record.
If I can discount my Gerry Mulligans, my Piazzollas, my Kind of Blue, then Jazz Impressions of Eurasia has to be my desert island album with Brandenburg Gate my favourite Dave Brubeck Quartet tune.
So much for the first times.
Then last week I go to my Kerrisdale London Drugs (we live in Kitsilano but we still like some of our old digs) and find Bennett/Brubeck — The White House Sessions, Live 1962.
The extensive notes, written by Ted Gioia begin:
Few things get music fans more excited than the discovery of long-lost recordings from the past — especially if they present unique meetings between legendary artists. Too often, we lament projects that almost happened, but never took place, such as Jimi Hendrix’s planned collaboration with Miles Davis or Charlie Parker’s cancelled session with Art Tatum at Carnegie Hall. Or we speculate about recordings that may have been made- so we imagine- but never survived, such as the perhaps mythical Edison cylinder that captured the sound of the first great New Orleans jazz band, led by cornetist Buddy Bolden, circa 1900.
Yet, every once in a while, an unexpected gift comes to us from the past. A long-distant event brought two great musical minds together on the same stage — and someone was wise enough to capture it for posterity.
This recording presents just that kind of rare serendipitous moment. On Tuesday, August 29, 1962, two stars came together at the base of the Washington Monument. There at the Sylvan Theater, Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck each performed separately, and then took a chance on a spontaneous, unrehearsed set — the only occasion, to my knowledge, when these two artists made music together, until they reunited at the 2009 newport Jazz Festival.
I know that my friend John Lekich, a Tony Bennett fan extraordinaire will have a heart seizure when he reads it. I will not write about Bennet singing with his own band or with the Brubeck Quartet. I am going to write about the fact that sometimes you can hear something for the first time the second time around!
I will post below the Take Five version from my new CD. It and Nomad (from Jazz Impressions of Eurasia) are played super-fast as if there were no tomorrow. To me they sounded as fresh as new. Then there is the Chopinesque Thank You (Djiekuje) from Jazz Impressions of Eurasia which was originally a piano solo. Here they whole quartet plays it.
When I saw the long panoramic with President Kennedy on the right I was magically taken back to 1962, when all was possible in the world, when I could read Ian Flemings for the first time and a whole future of my youth was in front of me to explore.
All that and more with one CD.
88883718042 — Columbia/RPM Records/ Legacy
Curiously there is a record by the quartet called Dave Brubeck — We’re All Together Again For The First Time. The whole record can be heard here
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.