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Dave Brubeck Trio and Cantori Domino

This is the kind of piece that Leonard Bernstein, for one, would have liked to have pulled off more often -- a genuine, uninhibited fusion with a strong personal signature. It's not Brubeck's fault that his choral works aren't better known; it's just that one can't force them into any categories -- and that drives most specialist critics crazy.

This is the kind of piece that Leonard Bernstein, for one, would have liked to have pulled off more often — a genuine, uninhibited fusion with a strong personal signature. It’s not Brubeck’s fault that his choral works aren’t better known; it’s just that one can’t force them into any categories — and that drives most specialist critics crazy.

Three times within La Fiesta, Brubeck and his sons Chris (electric bass) and Dan (drums) cut loose with some now-thunderous, now-meditative jazz interludes. Despite a nagging case of the flu, Brubeck could still deliver the polytonal piano goods full strength in his distinctive, even charismatic, manner. And sick or not, the irrepressible Brubeck offered an encore — a slow, touching improvised fantasy on the theme of God’s Love Made Visible, soon taken up by the trio and choir.

La Fiesta certainly gave Maurita Phillips-Thornburgh’s game choral group Cantori Domino a workout; after some chaotic passages early on, a marvelously vital Gloria got everyone on track. The cloudy acoustics of this ridgetop Bel-Air church seemed to throw everything into a sonic electric blender, but that sometimes resulted in delicious jumbles of sound.

Dave Brubeck Trio and Cantori Domino

(Bel-Air Presbyterian Church, 1,600 seats, $ 30 top)

Production: Presented by Cantori Domino. Performers: Dave Brubeck, Chris Brubeck, Dan Brubeck, Cantori Domino, Midge Wells, Los Angeles Children's Choir, orchestra conducted by Russell Gloyd. Reviewed Dec. 29, 1995. On Dec. 6, Dave Brubeck turned 75, and this still-prolific Telarc Jazz recording artist chose to spend his birthday month performing in only four locales -- London, Vienna, Graz and Los Angeles. Furthermore, lucky L.A. was treated to what was arguably the most special celebration of all -- three concerts in three separate churches, devoted to three of Brubeck's underappreciated choral works. The second of the three concerts featured a Christmas cantata, La Fiesta de la Posada (recently reissued by Columbia), a joyously eclectic 40-minute telling of the Nativity tale with a strong Mexican flavor. The piece works for several reasons -- a tight organizational game plan; good tunes; catchy, off-kilter rhythms; and, most of all, a youthful, almost naive, exuberance that masks the rigors of counterpoint, antiphony and all the other technical stuff.

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