Dave Brubeck’s 80th birthday doesn’t fall until Dec. 6, but the Hollywood Bowl — along with several other locales this summer — decided not to wait to celebrate. Normally, such swoonfests are full of reverent tributes and golden oldies but Brubeck would have none of it — well, just a little of it, actually. He preferred to press ahead, introducing lots of often-vigorous new material, showing one and all that this polytonal volcano is far from spent.
Defying age and delicate health, Brubeck continues to pour out CDs, symphonic and chamber music, and jazz compositions at a clip that would astonish his younger colleagues. A lot of his recent output is cast in a mellow, autumnal glow — particularly the relaxed solo piano album “One Alone” (Telarc) due out on Tuesday — but his post-intermission quartet set Wednesday night indicates that he may be entering a new, feistier creative period.
Most of his set was devoted to new music, with Brubeck reaching back to his muscular locked chords of mid-century and juxtaposing them with his recent lyrical bent and rhythms that he hasn’t explored much in the past. He opened with a vital, heavily rhythmic piece whose Bo Diddley-like beat came from a native American group; “Why Not?” landed in calypso country. The most ambitious piece, title not revealed, featured an earthy, swinging core surrounded by rhapsodic, openly Romantic bookends.
All of the new stuff is due to be recorded in three weeks — and once Brubeck shook off some early stiffness, he plunged into the material with remarkable vigor and obvious joy, offset by Bobby Militello’s pungently boppish ascensions on alto sax. Then his quartet could settle into the past — mixing it up on “I Got Rhythm,” pulling out the exotic “Koto Song,” and getting bassist Eugene Wright from the great ’60s Brubeck Quartet to make a sterling cameo appearance in “Take Five.”
To open the show, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra delivered the, as usual, expertly crafted, Basie-flavored set and was joined by daredevil multi-instrumentalist from Australia, James Morrison. Morrison, making his Bowl debut, proffered a terrifically swinging trombone on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” dizzying Dizzy-like trumpet flights on “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, feather-light flugelhorn on “I Thought About You,” and comic trumpet/trombone dialogues on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” — all with the CHJO. This man is a jazz treasure.