Saxophonist Jon De Lucia Revisits Dave Brubeck Octet.

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Brooklyn-based alto saxophonist and musicologist Jon De Lucia is set to release a new album, “The Brubeck Octet Project,” on July 12, 2024, through his own Musæum Clausum Recordings label. This release marks a significant effort to revive and reinterpret the arrangements originally performed by the Dave Brubeck Octet between 1946 and 1950.

The Dave Brubeck Octet, which predated Brubeck’s more famous quartet, was an innovative ensemble that operated during the early bebop era. It served as the launching pad for Brubeck’s career while he was studying composition at Mills College under French composer Darius Milhaud on the GI Bill.

De Lucia’s interest in this project stemmed from his ongoing exploration of underexamined areas of jazz history. His octet, formed in 2016 for a different project at City College of New York, became a weekly reading band, constantly in search of new material. This quest led De Lucia to the archives at Mills College, Brubeck’s alma mater, where he discovered many of the Brubeck Octet’s original handwritten charts in the papers of Dave Van Kriedt, the band’s tenor saxophonist and arranger.

The process of bringing these arrangements to life was not without challenges. De Lucia notes in the album’s liner notes that the original charts “were a bit of a mess, full of mistakes and scribbles that made them hard to read.” He undertook the task of transferring the music into notation software and correcting errors, a project made possible with support from CUNY and the Brubeck and Van Kriedt families.

While preserving the essence of the original arrangements, De Lucia has made some modifications to suit his ensemble and contemporary performance practices. He has written new introductions and backgrounds for the arrangements, which were originally crafted by Brubeck, Van Kriedt, and Bill Smith (the octet’s baritone saxophonist and clarinetist). Notably, De Lucia has expanded the solo spaces in the arrangements, allowing his musicians more room for individual expression.

The album features a diverse selection of material, including standards and original compositions. The track list includes well-known tunes such as George Gershwin’s “Love Walked In,” Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” and Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” alongside Brubeck’s own compositions like “Curtain Music” and “Closing Theme.”


De Lucia’s octet for this recording consists of a group of established New York-based musicians. The ensemble includes Brandon Lee on trumpet, Rebecca Patterson on trombone, Jay Rattman on clarinet and baritone saxophone, Glenn Zaleski on piano, Daniel Duke on bass, and Keith Balla on drums. A notable addition to the group is tenor saxophonist Scott Robinson, known for his work with the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

This project represents the first time in 74 years that this music has been played and recorded anew. It offers listeners a chance to hear these arrangements through a contemporary lens while maintaining their historical context.

The release of “The Brubeck Octet Project” adds to De Lucia’s growing discography and reputation as both a performer and a musical scholar. Born in 1980 in Quincy, Massachusetts, De Lucia studied at Berklee College of Music, where he expanded his focus from video game music composition to jazz performance. After graduating in 2005, he moved to New York, where he continued to study with various jazz masters and began exploring Baroque music.

De Lucia’s musical interests are wide-ranging, as evidenced by his previous projects. His longest-running ensemble, the Luce Trio, improvises on compositions by Bach, Handel, and Dowland, as well as Baroque-influenced jazz composers like John Lewis and Jimmy Giuffre. His 2023 album, “And the Stars Were Shining,” featured the Luce Trio in a program of spacious, melody-focused arrangements without drums.

As a musicologist, De Lucia has published in the Jazz Research Journal and has released a series of books titled “Bach Shapes” for saxophone. He currently teaches full-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City.

“The Brubeck Octet Project” is De Lucia’s sixth album as a leader. It follows his 2006 debut “Face No Face,” which received positive reviews in the jazz press. The new album consists of twelve tracks, bookended by Brubeck’s “Curtain Music” and “Closing Theme.” Between these, listeners will find a mix of standards and original compositions, all arranged for the octet format.

The album provides insight into a specific moment in jazz history when young, avant-garde artists on the West Coast were experimenting with new ways to combine composition and arrangement. It serves as a companion piece to the better-known “Birth of the Cool” sessions led by Miles Davis, which were taking place around the same time on the East Coast.

The original Dave Brubeck Octet included several musicians who would go on to have significant careers in jazz. Among them were Paul Desmond, whose distinctive alto saxophone sound would later define the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and Cal Tjader, who became renowned as a Latin jazz vibraphonist and bandleader.

De Lucia’s project sheds light on this often-overlooked chapter of Brubeck’s career, offering both historical value and contemporary interpretation. By expanding the solo spaces and adding new introductions, De Lucia and his ensemble bring fresh perspectives to these arrangements while maintaining their original structures.

“The Brubeck Octet Project” is set to be released on July 12, 2024, on Musæum Clausum Recordings. It represents a significant contribution to the ongoing documentation and reinterpretation of jazz history, particularly focusing on the experimental period of the late 1940s. The album offers listeners a chance to experience these rarely heard arrangements performed by a group of contemporary musicians, bridging the gap between jazz’s past and present.

Last modified: July 2, 2024