Old/New Albums: Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Dave Digs Disney”

davebrubeckquartetFor the average American, Dave Brubeck is a name that might float into the brain’s associative orbit when the term “jazz” is discussed. There is a much better chance that one will recognize his quartet’s most famous tune “Take Five” from the common-time-signatures-be-damned masterpiece album Time Out. Only in the last two years have I started listening to that album and the rest of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s catalog.

Obviously, since I’m writing about them now, I’m happy I dove into their work. Piano-based jazz from the ’50s and ‘60s is my favorite kind of jazz and it’s the initial connection that my brain associates with the term, quickly followed by the horn players from that same era.

Dave Brubeck is a bit of an exception even within that smaller subset of jazz. His playing still sounds free-form, or “jazzy,” to the new jazz listener, but I connect so much with it because it’s not overly abstract.

This album is the perfect example of the easily-accessible beauty of Dave Brubeck’s type of jazz. Dave Digs Disney was originally a collection of six tunes from various animated Disney movies and later rereleased with two extra songs. I listened to the rerelease for this post.

If you’ve never heard any Dave Brubeck Quartet, I’d recommend getting your hands on Time Out, and if you enjoy it, follow it up with Dave Digs Disney. Even if you don’t recognize all the songs as Disney songs (I didn’t), it’s a wonderfully relaxed set of tunes; a prime example of the smooth interplay between Brubeck on keys and Paul Desmond on alto sax, a musical relationship that had started in the late ’40s and would continue until the late ‘60s.

Back to the songs themselves. Because this album was originally released in 1957, the songs covered are all from Disney’s collection before that year, which unfortunately for me, are a lot of movies with which I’m pretty unfamiliar. The only song I knew kind of well was “So This Is Love,” and I only passingly knew a few of the others, while “Give A Little Whistle,” “One Song” and “Very Good Advice” were all completely new songs to my ear (didn’t watch a lot of Disney Animated Classics as a kid).

To be honest, this track list was a bit of a disappointment for me. The music itself (and the album as a whole) is great, but I would love to hear DBQ take on songs I know and love. “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat” or “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” songs that date from the ‘60s and ‘70s Disney movies.

That being said, I really enjoyed listening to these tunes. The ones that I didn’t know just ended up sounding like great DBQ tunes, and the ones I did know had a fun jazzy twist to them.

The biggest bummer on the album was “So This Is Love,” from the Cinderella soundtrack. I can hear this one being played slow, with some intricately jazzy chords and just sexiness oozing all over it. DBQ opts for a much faster tempo than the original, and it morphs into a more boppy upbeat number. Which is fine, cause it sounds awesome, but when I first saw this on the tracklist, I was really hoping for a slow-burn jazz piece.

On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got the upbeat “Heigh-Ho” from Snow White. This one is a blast, it is perfectly suited for DBQ’s upbeat spin on it. The original Disney tune is a bit of a drab march, but DBQ crank the tempo up and really hit the 2 and 4 beats, which is more appropriate if it’s off to play the dwarves go. This thing is just whimsically fun all the way through.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. Heigh-Ho
  2. Give A Little Whistle
  3. One Song
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