Atlanta-based pianist Gary Motley recorded a series of solo piano tributes to different musicians during the 1990s; this collection focuses on songs composed by (or associated with) Dave Brubeck. Motley seems to prefer to slow down the tempos of many of Brubeck's compositions in order to take a more introspective approach (especially "In Your Own Sweet Way," "Three to Get Ready," and "Bossa Nova U.S.A."); he sticks to more predictable treatments of "Summer Song" and "It's a Raggy Waltz." Motley's disguised introduction to Paul Desmond's "Take Five" emulates Brubeck's tendency in later years to have fun occasionally stumping his audiences (and once in a while, his quartet!) during concerts. The second half of the CD concentrates on standards. Brubeck was the first jazz musician to record "Someday My Prince Will Come"; Motley's arrangement concentrates on the luster of this jazz standard (which was introduced in the Disney film Snow White), avoiding the buoyant, lively approach preferred by Brubeck. Perhaps the greatest surprise is the inclusion of George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," a piece one doesn't normally associate with Brubeck. Perhaps Motley heard Brubeck conjure it up from his memory during one of his frequent concerts in Atlanta. Although this is an enjoyable disc, Motley at times seems a little bit too conservative. The biggest problems are associated with the packaging; a trio of different composers is credited with writing Brubeck's "Summer Song" (obviously there is more than one piece by that name), and the unflattering color portrait of the composer (likely adapted from a photo taken in the early '70s) makes a rather bizarre cover. But the sincerity of Gary Motley's salute to Dave Brubeck is never in doubt.
Echoes of Brubeck Review
by Ken Dryden