Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please November Edition: The Dave Brubeck Quartet – ‘Jazz Impressions of Japan’

Vinyl Me, Please November Edition: The Dave Brubeck Quartet – ‘Jazz Impressions of Japan’

by Patrick Phillips

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.

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The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (a three month plan will run you just $81) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is an Essential addition to any record collection. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with killer special features like original artwork, informative booklets, and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP shop too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including October’s glorious, 20th anniversary reissue of The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin – not to mention a bevy of rare releases pressed exclusively for the folks at Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.

Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of its more covet-worthy stock is only available to members, so you’ve gotta sign up to get your mitts on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

So what’s in November’s box? How about an oft overlooked classic from the back catalogue of The Dave Brubeck Quartet? You better be ready to say yes to Jazz Impression of Japan.

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The Dave Brubeck Quartet

For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or, how I learned that I really should know more about The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and so should you)

Right then, if you’re reading this post I’ll go ahead and assume you know a thing or two about Vinyl Me, Please, or that you’ve even been reading my VMP unboxing pieces from time to time. If either of those things are true, then you’re probably well aware that The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Jazz Impressions of Japan is, in fact, not the VMP Essentials pick for November. You might even know that because you were feverishly excited about that Essentials pick – which was Queens of the Stone Age’s hard rock classic Songs for the Deaf.

Of that album, I’ll simply say that I really dug it when it was released back in 2002. I’ll also say that it doesn’t really do much for me these days, so I didn’t feel the need to add it to my already overstuffed collection. Yes, I know Songs for the Deaf is an album that many, many vinyl lovers have been hot under the collar about for a few years now. If you’re one of them, I can say beyond a doubt that this month’s lavish VMP Essentials pressing is everything you could possibly want in a Songs for the Deaf reissue … and probably more. So do yourself a favor and snag yourself a copy.

For those whose tastes might err a little more on the side of mellow, the decision to swap Songs for the Deaf was a little bit easier than normal this month as VMP’s Classics selection was an unsung masterpiece from one of the most important jazz groups in the history of the form. Yes, The Dave Brubeck Quartet earns that “most important” label. And yes, their 1964 offering Jazz Impressions of Japan is a legit masterpiece.

It’s possible, of course, that you have no idea who Dave Brubeck or his legendary Quartet are. It’s even more likely you’ve never even heard of their album Jazz Impressions of Japan either. Regarding Brubeck and Crew, I can say that if you don’t know anything about them that’s entirely on you, because not only was The Dave Brubeck Quartet on of the most important groups in the jazz age, they were also one of the most popular, with their 1959 release Time Out widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded.

Hopefully, you’re already aware of that album, but if you’re not – or know absolutely nothing about Dave Brubeck and his legendary bandmates, well, Time Out really is the place to start finding out. That being said, once you’ve digested the group’s first legit masterwork, I’d urge you to take Jazz Impressions of Japan for a spin as well.

While it’s a bit harder to forgive having never heard of The Brubeck Quartet, a little leeway can be given in overlooking Jazz Impressions of Japan – mostly because, in addition to Brubeck’s experimental approach to the West Coast Cool style being both wildly influential and insanely popular, Brubeck himself was also absurdly productive in his heyday, often releasing several albums in the course of the same year.

As it happens, Jazz Impressions of Japan was The Brubeck Quartet’s lone release in 1964, so it’s a bit of a mystery as to how the album became an “overlooked” gem. That’s particularly true if you’ve ever listened to it. Written while Brubeck and his crew were touring the Far East nation, and recorded immediately upon returning home from said tour, Jazz Impressions of Japan isn’t quite like anything The Dave Brubeck Quartet Every recorded – with the band blending the sounds and styles they absorbed while in Japan with the laid back mode of their West Coast Cool vibes.

Turns out, those vibes blend extraordinarily well, with Brubeck and Co. delivering a decidedly first-rate American jazz record that happened to benefit from subtle flourishes of Japanese instrumentation. That might come as a surprise to some, particularly after reading the track list for Jazz Impressions of Japan. With song titles like “Tokyo Traffic,” “Fujiyama,” and “Osaka Blues,” one might understandably be expecting a string of compositions fronted by the sounds of a gong, or a bamboo flute, or biwa. Instead, Brubeck’s singular, low-key style is always front and center, with the band skillfully adding those more traditional Japanese flourishes to craft an album that pays homage to the music and vistas which inspired it, while still staying true it’s is West Coast Cool roots.

That sound is are as unique as you might think. So too is Jazz Impressions of Japan. So much so that I won’t waste any more of your time trying to use words to describe the music therein. Some things, after all, just have to be heard to be understood and I sincerely hope that, if you do choose to give this singular jazz confection from Dave Brubeck Quartet a spin, you get to hear it via this stunning, AAA pressing from Vinyl Me, Please.

Cover Matters

I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot of late, but while there are a great many album covers meant to convey some overt info about the music contained within, sometimes album art is legit art. FYI – the cover of Jazz Impressions of Japan is very much legit, so let’s all take a moment to admire the beauteous images accompanying this Dave Brubeck Quartet classic.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, you’re probably noticing there’s a lot of info on that back sleeve. First and foremost, there’s a little bit of backstory from every single song on Jazz Impressions of Japan courtesy of Mr. Brubkeck himself (circa 1964). But you should probably have a gander at the album credits as well, if only to note that this is indeed the definitive version of The Dave Brubeck Quartet – featuring Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto sax, Eugene White on bass, and Joe Morello on drums.

You’ll want to take a moment to gaze upon the shiny, foil stamping as well, ’cause it forever notes The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Jazz Impressions of Japan as an official Vinyl Me, Please Classics pick.

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Regarding this particular pressing of Jazz Impressions of Japan, you can find all the info you need on this super informative little sticker decorating the sleeve. Special, anniversary edition – check. Exclusive listening notes included – check. Cut from the original master tapes from 1964 – check. AAA pressing – check. In case you weren’t entirely convinced, those attributes absolutely make this VMP release of The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s overlooked classic a fully legit classic pressing.

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Once you get inside that sleeve, you’ll find a bit more info about Jazz Impression of Japan on the special, VMP-styled OBI strip. Like the VMP Classics catalogue number for the album. Hard to believe that Vinyl Me, Please has been running their Classics pics for well over a year now.

Flip that strip over and you’ll find a few carefully chosen words explaining why Jazz Impressions of Japan was selected as this month’s Classics pick – not that you should need much explaining about reissuing an album from The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Now, if there’s one minor drawback about opting into the VMP Classics selections on any given month, it’s that Vinyl Me, Please Classics picks do not come with original artwork or a companion cocktail like their Essentials brethren. Luckily, Team VMP more than makes up for their absence with a killer Listening Guide detailing the importance of each Classics selection. This month’s 13-page book includes some wicked insight about The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Jazz Impressions of Japan from TiVo’s Senior Pop Music Editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine. Here’s a little sample of what’s inside.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet

The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Vinyl Me, Please

Once you’ve had a chance to peruse that super informative booklet, you’ll probably want to charge ahead to spinning that AAA wax. Before you do, you should take a quick moment to appreciate the dust sleeve protecting that precious wax, ’cause Team Vinyl Me, Please cares enough to keep it safe via the best protective sleeve out there.

What about that wax, you ask? It’s black, and it’s oh so beautiful, especially dressed up in that old school Columbia Records “360 Sound” label.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet

And you’d better believe that oh-so classic presentation is gonna bring some serious class to your deck.

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How’s it sound? It’s kinda like that moment in Back to the Future when Marty starts shredding on a guitar solo in the middle of “Johnny B. Good.” Only with a far more mellow onslaught of piano, and sax, and drums, and stand up bass. In short, you might not be ready for what The Dave Brubeck Quartet are bringing on Jazz Impressions of Japan, but someday it’ll knock your socks off.

Give It a Spin

Look, I know I’ve been beating the drum of “musical discovery” via Vinyl Me, Please for a while now. While they’ve introduced me to who knows how many artists and albums through their Essentials releases, what Team VMP has done with their Classics editions over the past year-plus has been nothing short of revelatory. Yes, you can add their pressing of The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Jazz Impressions of Japan to that long list of revelations. And yes, this stunning reissue is likely to serve as a revelation experience for both Brubeck faithfuls and neophytes alike. On that note, I’ll simply tip my hat to the folks at Vinyl Me, Please for continuing to deliver absolute diamonds to the masses via their VMP Classics campaign.

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door every month! And we cannot wait to get our ears on that Aretha Franklin release Team VMP is sending out for December!

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