EmptyWalt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (Sun., Oct. 26)
In December, Dave Brubeck will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame in Sacramento just four days after his 88th birthday on the 6th.
Having enjoyed a lifetime of fame and fortune, he seems to be approaching the finish line cautiously, to judge by the leisurely pace at which he played most of the numbers at his concert Sunday night.
He struck the keynote right away with "Sunny Side of the Street," which he trod with the brand of spontaneous joy that his idol, Duke Ellington, gave the piece in an unforgettable big band arrangement.
Brubeck put in plenty of space between the staccato chords, letting them breathe deeply, as if they were taking a walk on a Sunday afternoon. Bassist Michael Moore walked it in the same warm-hearted style that "Senator" Eugene Wright once did in the opening days of the Brubeck career.
Bobby Militello's alto saxophone spoke here in its characteristic, swinging way. He never fails to surprise you a little with his perspective on the history of the instrument, stepping from Benny Carter right up to Sonny Stitt.
Lit by the glowing percussion work of veteran Brubeck drummer Randy Jones, the night progressed under a reign of charm. Good old tunes kept coming: Fred Waring's "Sleep, Sleep, Sleep"; or "Margie," Snooky Young's first hit; "Yesterdays," in a Latin groove; and even "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
From the perspective of the 21st century, the Brubeck band's innovative works like "Take Five," by the great Paul Desmond, flicked us a friendly salute on their way to the museum of memories.
Brubeck was indeed putting forth a "vision of hope, opportunity and freedom" through his music, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said when she presented him with the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy in April.
She could have added, had she attended Monday, that he bestowed a night of gentle, affectionate sound, comforting the listeners who rewarded him with a standing ovation.