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Posted: January 03, 2011

Dave Brubeck: “Legacy of a Legend”

Plus Elvis remixed for Cirque du Soleil

Mike Cote

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DAVE BRUBECK Legacy of a Legend (Columbia/Legacy)
DAVE BRUBECK The Definitive Dave Brubeck on fantasy, concord jazz and telarc (Fantasy)

Call it a box set without the box. Released on the same day by separate labels, two new double-disc compilations by jazz pianist Dave Brubeck offer a great chronicle of his work over the past six decades.

Legacy of Legend is the Dave Brubeck album that pops up first if you search his name at Amazon.com. And that's no surprise since it's drawn from the icon's popular tenure on Columbia Records from 1954 to 1970, when early smashes like "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" by his classic quartet brought jazz to a mainstream audience. Brubeck had a hand in selecting the tracks so the collection is more eclectic than most such compilations.

The Definitive Dave Brubeck fills in the gaps before the pianist signed with Columbia and after he left. Disc one features his work on Fantasy in the 1940s and early 1950s, when he was recording mostly standards and beginning to define his sound. Disc two fast-forwards to the 1980s and takes us all the way to 2004. A seven-minute extended version of "Take Five" recorded nearly 30 years after the original cut offers a bridge between the two sets - and shows Brubeck still making the ubiquitous Paul Desmond song sound fresh.

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MILES DAVIS FEATURING SONNY ROLLINS Dig (Original Jazz Classics)
CHET BAKER Chet Baker Sings (Original Jazz Classics)
WES MONTGOMERY Boss Guitar (Original Jazz Classics)
VINCE GUARALDI TRIO Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus (Original Jazz Classics)
BILL EVANS TRIO Waltz for Debby (Original Jazz Classics)

Concord Records continues its rollout of Original Jazz Classics reissues with these discs recorded in the '50s by five jazz icons. Here's a testament to the staying power of this music: In the liner notes to the Miles Davis/Sonny Rollins disc, Ira Gitler writes that his original liner notes for the album first appeared on a 10-inch LP in the early days of the long-playing record.

These 1951 sessions, highlighted by the seven-minute plus Davis title track, were among the first to take advantage of the new technology, which allowed for longer selections. Needless to say, Davis and Rollins, backed by a band that featured Art Blakey on drums, made adventurous music that is more than worthy of the digital era.

The other new discs in this series feature trumpeter and singer Chet Baker's first sessions for Riverside Records; guitarist Wes Montgomery fronting a trio featuring drums and organ; pianist Vince Guaraldi interpreting Brazilian bossa nova (and scoring a pop hit with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind"); and pianist Bill Evans in the fourth and final album recorded by his classic trio.

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ELVIS PRESLEY Viva ELVIS (RCA/Legacy)

Cirque du Soeil has made Elvis cool again. In his prime, such a comment would have been rock ‘n’ roll blasphemy, but  more than 50 years after his prime, a retooling of the King’s songbook makes a lot of sense.

The crunch of power chords and the wail of blues harmonica on “Blue Suede Shoes” blow the dust off this classic. The star attraction is still that country-boy voice, of course, but the contemporary remixes on such Elvis hits as "That's All Right" and "King Creole" sound fresh and rock hard. Purists might wince at the posthumous boy-girl duets (“Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love”), but it’s hard to argue with the results. Viva Elvis indeed.

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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