Jazz Review: Chris Brubeck's Triple Play - Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center

An inter-generational jam session well worth catching.
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Chris Brubeck's Triple Play - Live at the Arthur Zankel Music CenterChris Brubeck’s Triple Play brings the house down with Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center. Recorded in June of 2011 in Saratoga Springs, New York, this recording captures the playfulness and energy of jazz, Delta blues, Tin Pan Alley music, and even a trace of ragtime.

Triple Play is comprised of bassist/trombonist/pianist Chris Brubeck, guitarist Joel Brown and multi-instrumentalist Peter Madcat Ruth. Special guests include Joel’s father Frank Brown and Chris’ legendary father Dave Brubeck.

The younger Brubeck is, like his dad, a hell of a musician. He stunningly plays through some of his father’s classic pieces and fluently blends them with dashes of the blues. Brown provides extraordinary equilibrium for the diverse songs, while Ruth is a lively musician regardless of the instrument. All three men contribute vocals as well.

Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center opens with a kick-ass celebration with “a little Mississippi party music” along the lines of Hambone Willie Newburne’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” The track is a scalding blast of blues right out of the swamp, complete with Ruth’s masterful harmonica playing.

The blues carry on with Jay Gorney and Yip Harburg’s lament “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” and Ruth’s “Win the Lotto.” Given the state of the economy and the world today, the cuts feel extraordinarily modern and certainly speak to the souls of many on the “wrong side of the tracks.”

The Saratoga Springs roof blows off when Dave Brubeck walks on stage halfway through his classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” The 90-year-old legend doesn’t miss a beat on the odd-metered number and still has marvellous nimbleness on the ivories. He also cruises along with Triple Play on W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” a 10-minute jam that lets him spring his legs a little and pace out some really inventive phrases.

Whether they’re touching down in the Delta or digging and swinging through a jazz patch that’s hard to sit still for, Triple Play is an animated and audacious act. The next best thing to checking them out in person is to check out what true musicianship sounds like with Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center.