In the '50s, Dave Brubeck managed to accomplish something that few post-World War II jazzmen did: He enjoyed a certain amount of acceptance in the pop market. And the interesting thing is that he did it without taking a pop approach -- the pianist played instrumental jazz interpretations of pop songs. This 1953 release was recorded when Brubeck was at the height of his popularity; live on December 14, 1953. Most of these previously unreleased performances are from the same concert that gave listeners the first Jazz at the College of the Pacific. Brubeck's quartet includes alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Ron Crotty, and drummer Joe Dodge, and this lineup is the essence of cool jazz. Essentially, cool jazz was a form of bebop; Brubeck's cohesive group is definitely playing bop changes on lyrical performances of "How High the Moon," "Love Walked In," and other standards. But they play them in a subtle, relaxed, understated fashion, and that use of subtlety is what makes Vol. 2 cool jazz. Brubeck and Desmond (who always had a gorgeous tone) both swing, but not in an aggressive, intense way -- they were introspective players who realized the value of restraint. Although not essential, this is a pleasing effort that serious Brubeck devotees will enjoy.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson