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ClassicsOnline Home » BRUBECK: Nocturnes
Dave Brubeck’s Nocturnes are small, lyrical pieces that can be played by children and savoured by adults. Longing, tenderness, and nostalgia are the predominant themes, linking them to Chopin’s nocturnes. Both composers explore the mystery and melancholy that take over after dark, the nocturne’s time to flower. As Brubeck himself writes in his liner notes, “...all of these pieces rise out of my personal life, and it is gratifying to hear them so splendidly recreated by the artistry of John Salmon”.
By Jonathan Woolf
This is Salmon�s second Brubeck disc for Naxos. Here he presents what are termed twenty-six Nocturnes though that�s something of a misnomer. They�re short character studies, mainly played straight with three notable exceptions where Salmon allows himself the luxury of some explicit improvisation � Recuerdo, Bluette and Koto Song. A number of the songs are also from recent albums and many have personal associations for Brubeck � family, travel, touring, special people and an air of nostalgia.
Whatever they may or may not be these are all engaging and often wistful examples of Brubeck�s art. Since he recently announced that he won�t make any more European tours due to the fatigue of the travelling it�s a moment for those of us here to reflect on his more intimate and reflective moments. They�re captured with real understanding and affection by Salmon who�s made something of a study in things Brubeckian.
So we can admire the compression but affirmative lyricism of the charming ballad Strange Meadowlark. Similarly � and how craftily programmed it is � we can enjoy the Bachian Mexicana, or should that be Mexican Bachiana of Recuerdo, which as already noted is one of the few places where Salmon has some improvisatory leeway. He brings out its suspensions nicely as indeed he does in adducing a little Erroll Garner to its veritable charms. I enjoyed the antique air of Softly, William, Softly, which derives from a never completed opera. As its title suggests Bluette is a laid back mini blues opus. And as with so many songs of his we can hear how Quiet As The Moon aspires to the condition of song. Brubeck is a wonderfully �vocal� composer.
Home Without Iola (his wife) is imbued with tristesse but another tribute to her - (I Still Am In Love With) A Girl Named Oli � has more than its share of earthy, funky Garneresque moments. There�s a touching tribute to Audrey Hepburn as well, and a trademark waltz, Viennese style, to add variety both rhythmic and thematic to the programming. Rather odd though that his Fats Waller tribute � Mr. Fats � should be in the form of a boogie; perhaps Harlem Stride was too much Fats�s thing for Brubeck to insist upon it. The range of his classical enthusiasms and interests can be gauged by his Satie homage, the roguishly titled I See, Satie.
This is another well-judged tribute to a still vital talent. There�s warmth here and wit and the kind of miniaturised impressionism that keeps Brubeck so interesting and rewarding a figure.
American Record Guide
By Philip Clark
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