This is hugely enjoyable. With his sophisticated, classically trained approach and unusual time signatures, Dave Brubeck translates well to a string quartet. You lose a lot of instrumental contrast, of course, but the losses are mostly percussive (piano, drums) and strings can compensate to an extent.
The first number, Three to Get Ready, has a charming insouciance, the strings give a nice slinky quality to Strange Meadowlark, then we get train effects in The Golden Horn, quite different from the Brubeck Quartet version (apparently the rhythm actually came from the Turkish phrase for ‘Thank you’).
The Duke has cello pizzicato and a saxophone-like viola. Although everything is listed as an arrangement, leader Jeremy Cohen is clearly improvising in Paul Desmond’s Take Five (like Ellington, Brubeck became best known for another man’s composition). What Child Is This? plays around with Greensleeves.
Dynamic range is good, especially in Forty Days, and little percussive effects abound, as in Blue Rondo a la Turk and Unsquare Dance. The Brubeck family have given their blessing and Matt Brubeck, himself an improvising cellist, has provided the arrangement of The Duke. The recordings are excellent, with none of that airless quality that can intrude into jazz.