Anything Goes! The Dave Brubeck Quartet plays Cole Porter

The Dave Brubeck Quartet plays Cole PorterIt’s been said it’s dangerous to put old wine in new bottles. But after several samplings of this album there seems to be some doubt about the statement, especially since the vino in question is splendidly aged Cole Porter and the vessel the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

There were misgivings. Early Porter? Fine for their time, those catchy lyrics, but old hat. His melodies? They’d be somehow flat, archaic, not swinging. Just a little bit passé perhaps, even a trifle sad on rehearing. An age gone by, etc., etc.

All wrong.

In this “new bottle,” Cole Porter’s music glows brilliantly, richly, with a tint of the elegance and sophistication that was so inherent in his particular sound. And, in fact, what a pleasure it is that Dave has liberated the songs from their oft-found cocktail lounge and society dance-band surroundings and breathed new body, new bouquet into them. Dave’s up-dated arrangements illustrate how well Porter adapts to the jazz idiom. This could be the true test of any song: no matter in what style it is played, does the melodic line hold up, is it a joy to listen to?

The answer here is affirmative as Dave and the Quartet delve deep beneath the surface veneer, the mere chic of it, to plumb Porter’s wonderful urbanity, his verve, his lyricism and wit. They find it all in abundance and answer it with their own matching contributions, at times subtle, at others heady or hard-driving, depending on what the song calls for or inspires. A give and take it is, one talent feeding several, Porter providing the magic to work with, the group weaving the spell without the help of Porter’s inventive lyrics (so much a part of his music). Again, it is a testament to the abundant richness of musical dialogue that words aren’t necessary to convey the full and vibrant nature of the songs. They are complete as we hear them. The lyrics? They’re a bonus as we find their echo filling our minds.

In Anything Goes Dave skates the album title song with deceptive simplicity, lightly sketching the melody before Paul Desmond swings out with a relaxed and swinging solo (backed by drummer Joe Morello’s steady ride-cymbal) that nicely expresses Porter’s “voice.” Dave takes it again, matching Paul with a wry solo of his own that builds to a conclusion through an intricate progression of fine Brubeckian chords.

Subtlety and sophistication keynote the group’s rendition of Love for Sale but don’t limit the range or pace of the track. Dave starts it in a gently tantalizing fashion, understating the “message” of the song, then flows into a catchy 4/4 chorus which soon flowers into a hint of double-timed barrelhouse piano before he returns it to the misty realm of intrigue and mystery which Porter probably would have approved.

As for Night and Day, it wails. Up-tempo all the way, it begins with a pulsing Desmond solo that’s a pleasant switch on the mushy, overblown treatment the song often receives. Dave follows with an equally jubilant, driving solo that is rousingly sustained by Morello and bassist Gene Wright.

For spirit and lyric taste, Paul’s entrance in What is This Thing Called Love is vintage wine indeed. Liltingly, he enters after Dave’s delicate solo and weaves an air of questioning melancholy that beautifully expresses the song’s lyric. Dave continues the mood and takes the song out with another introspective solo that complements Paul’s.

I Get a Kick Out of You is all champagne and caviar. Here, the group swings from beginning to end, the ebullient line of the melody driving Dave and Paul in successive vervy solos that seem to be both urbane and “down-home.” It’s Porter and Brubeck at their best, a welding of talents in a high-spirited blend of sophisticated jazz that also “grooves.” The spirit spills over into Just One of Those Things where, again, Paul wails nicely, setting the mood with an intricately wrought, full-bodied chorus. Dave follows in the same vein, swinging fully while exploring the varied harmonic steps to that famous trip to the moon on gossamer wings.

The Quartet continues to explore in You’re the Top and All Through the Night. Both further exemplify the joyousness of the Porter-Brubeck union and prove that not only can old wine be put into new bottles but that, as in this case, the resulting ferment can be a delight to the musical palate.

Notes by Anthony Tuttle


  • Dave Brubeck, piano
  • Paul Desmond, alto sax
  • Joe Morello, drums
  • Gene Wright, bass

Side 1:

  1. Anything Goes (5:38)
  2. Love for Sale (5:14)
  3. Night and Day (4:52)
  4. What is This Thing Called Love (6:14)

Side 2:

  1. I Get a Kick Out of You (5:14)
  2. Just One of Those Things (6:18)
  3. You’re the Top (6:34)
  4. All Through the Night (8:25)

Columbia Records CS 9402

(This is another from Prairie’s family. We’re both big Cole Porter fans, and while I’m not the biggest jazz fan on the planet, the Dave Brubeck Quartet has some very interesting takes on some of the old Porter standards.)

One Comment

  1. James
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    My mother took me to see The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Canandaigua, NY in 1968. I was 12… and had just started to play drums. I watched Joe Morello do a drum solo… playing with a brush in one hand… and a maracca in the other! Awesome!! I hear them do ‘Take Five’… and felt like I died and went to Heaven! What a memory!! Today I found Anything Goes on Vinyl… in an old second hand shop! There was not one scratch on it! Too good to be true! I’m now 56… and can’t wait to place this on the old turntable! We’re gonna miss you Dave! 12-7-2012

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *