Love Songs by Brubeck, Dave
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Were it not for the warm embraces from Paul Desmond
's alto saxophone, this collection of love songs would be a case study in emotional dysfunction. While Dave Brubeck is an influential pianist and one of the leading lights of the dry, West Coast "cool" school of jazz, his poker-faced approach to tonal inflections and his emphasis on tricky, technical time signatures is not the sort of thing that makes people feel cuddly. The exception occurs on the lead track, a stirring rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance" that has Brubeck setting an intimate mood with a contemplative opening solo. After that, Desmond's lyrical élan bears most of the romantic burden. He is generally up to the task, capturing just the right mix of whimsicality and wistfulness on "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" and teaming with Brubeck for a wonderfully understated treatment of West Side Story
's "Somewhere." There are some misfires: the rhythmic backing on "La Paloma Azul" sounds hopelessly anachronistic beside today's Latin and Afro-Cuban offerings, and the record's lone previously unreleased song, "You Go to My Head," lacks the cohesion customary of a Brubeck ensemble. But overall, this is a pleasant collection that offers a less cerebral side of Brubeck as he assays pieces from the Great American Songbook. --Britt Robson