Long Lost Bennett/Brubeck Collaboration Found

On August 28,1962 Dave Brubeck's "classic" quartet and Tony Bennett backed by The Ralph Sharon Trio performed separately on the stage of the Sylvan Amphitheater at the base of the Washington Monument and then in an act of daring spontaneity, Brubeck and company backed Bennett on four unrehearsed tunes, all of which was captured to tape by a Columbia Records' remote recording team.

The tape soon thereafter disappeared, its very existence put in doubt because it could not be located in the label's database, never mind in the tape vaults. One track, "That Old Black Magic" did surface. It was used more than forty years ago on a compilation album.

Years later, Tony Bennett's archivist requested the label look for the tape of the complete performance but it could not be located. A journal entry discovered by chance pointed towards the tape's existence, but only a question mark appeared where the job number should have been.

Late in 2012, after a great deal of time spent looking, Matt Kelly, Director of Sony Music Archive Media Library, located the tapes that had accidentally been stored among the label's classical recordings of that era.

This IMPEX double LP set is the music's first vinyl release. The credits read it was mixed and mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC from tapes transferred by Matt Cavaluzzo. LP mastering was by Kevin Gray and Robert Pincus at Cohearent Audio.

This chain leads me to believe the multi-track tapes were transferred to high resolution digital and then mixed to digital, with high resolution files used to cut lacquers. You will not be disappointed by the sound, whatever source was used, though don't expect traditional "audiophile quality" sound.

The sound has all of the sonic fingerprints of an outdoor event on a humid, late summer day: it's thick with atmosphere, but obviously lacking in spatial reverberation or low frequency room reinforcement so the drums are somewhat "cardboardy" and midrange dominates all instruments throughout. However, that's probably how it sounded to the dignitaries and "just plain folks" in attendance at the "White House Seminar, American Jazz Concert". For whatever reason or reasons, Bennett backed by The Ralph Sharon Trio sounds better than the Brubeck material—Bennett's vocals are particularly natural and present-sounding.

As for the performances, you have two sides of Brubeck's group in its prime, with Paul Desmond (real name: Paul Emil Breitenfeld) on Alto, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums about five years before Brubeck called it quits to concentrate on composition.

The group, formed in 1951, became a big hit on college campuses and in 1958 toured the world under the auspices of The State Department, so it's not surprising that the Kennedy administration called upon Brubeck to perform at this White House sponsored event.

The set opens with the obligatory "Take Five", with Brubeck doing a lot of block chord pounding followed by "Nomad", originally recorded for the 1958 album Jazz Impressions of Eurasia". Side two opens with "Thank You (Djiekuje)", also from that album and heavily influenced by Chopin. That's followed by "Castilian Blues" in 5/4 time, from 1962's Countdown Time In Outer Space. It gives Morello some workout time and it ends the recorded set.

Bennett backed by The Ralph Sharon Trio fills side three with "Just In Time", "Small World", "Make Someone Happy"( from the 1960 Broadway show "Do Re Mi" starring the great Phil Silvers), "Rags to Riches" (a number one hit for Bennett backed by the Percy Faith Orchestra in 1953), "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road") and of course the then hit "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", which had been released just six months earlier as the "B" side of the single "Once Upon A Time", which was pretty much a flop. The song hit when DJs began playing the "B" side.

Side four is the unplanned unrehearsed collaboration including "Lullaby of Broadway", Bennett's opening number on his spectacular Carnegie Hall recording from June of that year. That's followed by "Chicago (That Toddling' Town"), "That Old Black Magic" and finally "There Will Never Be Another You". The performances sound as if they hadn't been rehearsed, but they are helped by the fact that these were standards well-known to all of the players. Bennett was in fine voice (when is he not, even now?).

A thoroughly enjoyable ear on a piece of history more than a "historical performance" by anyone involved, Bennett/Brubeck is nonetheless a record I found myself playing more times than I expected to before sitting down to write this. There's something about a live performance from a time when life was so much simpler, even if more jittery and dangerous because of the cold war, that makes you want to go back in time and enjoy it all again.

An aside: one of the two recording engineers was Frank Bruno. My wife once worked for his son. I tried for a few years to get an interview with the elder Bruno but he didn't want to talk. He was sick at the time and he's since passed away taking his memories with him—including those from the recording of this pleasing set.

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Jazzfan62's picture

I commented on the CD in the earlier post. Good, but not outstanding like "Time Out" or some of Bennett' s work. Nonetheless enjoyable.

Rudy's picture

You're not kidding about outdoor gigs. When our big band used to play outdoors around town (even on a stage with some sort of roof or enclosure around us, it was not only different for the audience to hear, but difficult to hear our fellow bandmates. For lack of a better word, live music in that setting sounds so...small.

I would have picked this up just for the Brubeck sides. Having Bennett is a nice bonus.

Stefano Rumori's picture


your comment below made me think:

"This chain leads me to believe the multi-track tapes were transferred to high resolution digital and then mixed to digital, with high resolution files used to cut lacquers"

Does this mean that all the re-issues mastered at Cohearent Audio that claim full Analog process, in reality are always cut using Hi-Rez files?

Then what about all the Music Matter anniversary 33 1/3 re-issue that are all cut there?