Saturday, September 09, 2000

Jazz legend lights up Music Hall

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here's an idea: Take a person - anybody - to one of this weekend's Cincinnati Pops performances featuring Dave Brubeck. Don't reveal he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or that he toured with such artists as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker, or that, in 1996, he was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

        Just let your friend watch and listen, because there's the real story. When this jazz legend sits at his piano, the look on his face says there's no place he'd rather be, and he'll make any listener feel likewise.

        Friday's performance marked the beginning of the Cincinnati Pops 2000-2001 season at Music Hall. The performance repeats tonight and Sunday at 8 p.m.

        Billed Bach, Beatles, and Brubeck, it was a tribute to Mr. Brubeck's 80th birthday, which he will celebrate in December.

        The concert began with J.S. Bach's “Little” Fugue in G Minor, orchestrated by Lucien Cailliet. From the beginning that featured a delicate solo flute part to the lush, passionate ending with full orchestra, this was the Pops at its best, proving they aren't just another show tune band but also one capable of sophisticated interpretations of classical music.

        Cincinnati Pops director and the evening's conductor, Erich Kunzel, told the almost sold out crowd that he and the orchestra are working on album of Beatles tunes, as arranged by Cincinnatian Steven Reineke.

        But many of the arrangements played, like “Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” lacked excitement and an element of anything new. Others, like Mr. Reineke's version of “Michelle,” were better.

        A duet for piano and accordion, his arrangement of “Michelle” allowed the true beauty - its simple melody - to come through.

        Dave Brubeck, often considered the father of “West Coast” or “cool” jazz, was the special guest at Mr. Kunzel's debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 8 O'Clock Pops concert, in 1965.

        Back then, Mr. Kunzel said he worried how he could combine Mr. Brubeck's style with an orchestra.

        There weren't any worries Friday night, as the Pops orchestra added color and depth to the jazz pieces, working like a big band backing up their soloists.

        The other quartet members, Bobby Militello on alto saxophone and flute, Alec Dankworth on bass, and Randy Jones on drums, blazed through improvised solos.

        Mr. Militello's liberal saxophone solos, especially in Blue Rondo a la Turk and the evening's encore, Take the A Train, were unguarded, as if he were playing at some small, smoke-filled club and not at Music Hall.

        Mr. Jones' drumming was both economical and effective during the the anticipated “Take Five.” Rhythmic almost to the point of being hypnotic, he led the orchestra through the improvised counterpoints that evoked yells from the audience.

        Mr. Brubeck didn't seem to mind the big, glittery “80” that hung high above his head as he played. Armed not only with talent, but a sense of humor, he laughed when he became the listener, as the entire audience stayed on their feet after the standing ovation and sang “Happy Birthday.”

        For tickets to Bach, Beatles and Brubeck, call 381-3300.



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