Record Review - 1 October 02 2002

A disclaimer: If you’re seeking a video highlighting Dave Brubeck’s jazz quartet, Brubeck Returns to Moscow is not what you’re looking for. Instead, this disc documents Brubeck’s 1997 visit to Moscow, principally to perform his Catholic mass, To Hope! A Celebration, with a Russian orchestra, choir and featured female vocalist, as well as his quartet.

There are jazzy moments, including a riveting 12-minute “Blue Rondo la Turk,” with symphony, and solo Brubeck on “Goodbye Old Friend,” an ode to baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, who died in 1996. Later, at a Q&A seminar, Brubeck jams with a violinist who emerges from the audience. It’s a spontaneous, joyful moment.

Brubeck’s mass notwithstanding, the disc’s thematic emphasis is on the role of jazz as a voice of freedom and cultural exchange in totalitarian countries. Brubeck toured Eastern Europe extensively in the ’50s. He’d attempted to play Russia ever since. In 1980, he canceled performances in pre-glasnost Russia because he was told, literally, that someone would be taking names of everyone who attended. Even when Brubeck finally performed in Moscow in 1987, he would not have been able to perform his mass with Russian musicians.

Brubeck Returns to Moscow is an excellent document of the pianist’s most fully realized sacred work and of his role, and the role of jazz, in Eastern European culture.

The Dave Brubeck Festival and Symposium is held at Emory University, Oct. 1-5.??