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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Triple Play Plus the Fathers

Everyone present kept the buzz going all weekend. You had to be there. The “there”— Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, Friday, June 10. The concert—Triple Play (Chris Brubeck (bass trombone, piano, guitar), Joel Brown (acoustic guitar) and Peter Madcat Ruth (harmonica). The large new music hall was packed to the gills, a home town crowd, there to hear Joel Brown, for many years, much beloved Artist-in-Residence, Skidmore College; Chris Brubeck, also Artist in Residence some years back, and Madcat’s amazing harmonic gymnastics. Triple Play always draws a crowd. But that was only the 3/5th of it. The other 2/5th pushed this concert into the stratosphere.

Joel’s father, Frank Brown, joined the trio in the middle of the first set. At 85, he plays a dazzling clarinet. When he entered in mid-first set, almost tiptoeing, he looked like he was wondering why he’d agreed to do this—he started so softly and slowly, sitting a bit apart on the right. Right from the first note it was clear the four were completely tuned to one another.

In the intermission the piano bench was replaced with a straight-back chair.  As the second set opened, the trio came on, then a man assisted Dave Brubeck, walking with him across the stage, seating him at the piano. Frailty flew away as soon as he began to play. A collective sigh of delight and praise passed through the hall. Soon Frank Brown emerged from the right, playing as he walked. It just got better and better. The trio constantly in touch with each other, Joel checking in with his dad, Chris with his, the two fathers with each other—the electric charge igniting the crowd over and over. They played all the favorites, “Take 5,” “Blue Rondo,” but for this listener, “Black and Blue” was the ultimate. Chris Brubeck on bass trombone, his familiar rendition, his dad’s piano adding the magic something else—slow and easy in a complex and layered tempo. Definitely they were channeling Louis Armstrong.

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