Jon De Luca |The Brubeck Octet Projecr

Ever curious about the underexplored corners of jazz history, alto saxophonist Jon De Lucia breathes new life into one important such chapter with

The Brubeck Octet Project, dropping July 12 on his own Musæum Clausum Recordings imprint. The album documents De Lucia and his octet’s rediscovery and reconditioning of the arrangements played by the

Dave Brubeck Octet, the innovative 1946-1950 unit with which the iconic West Coast pianist began his career. It will be available in CD and digital formats as well as a limited edition 180g Translucent Red Vinyl release, in the style of the original Fantasy Brubeck records.

De Lucia’s octet predates The Brubeck Octet Project. He formed the band in 2016 for another project at City College of New York (where he then taught), but it quickly became a weekly reading band, leaving the saxophonist constantly in search for new (old) repertoire. It was this quest that led him to the archives at Mills College (Brubeck’s alma mater), where he found many of the Brubeck Octet’s original handwritten charts in the papers of the band’s tenor saxophonist and arranger, Dave Van Kriedt. 

“They were a bit of a mess, full of mistakes and scribbles that made them hard to read,” recalls De Lucia in the album’s liner notes. “I always wanted to take the time to put them into notation software, fix the mistakes, rehearse a band, and record this music anew. Finally, thanks to support from CUNY and the Brubeck and Van Kriedt families, it has happened.” 

Jazz being jazz, however, De Lucia also sought ways to make his own mark on the work—and to allow his collaborators to do the same. He wrote new intros and backgrounds for the arrangements (by Brubeck, Van Kriedt, and baritonist/clarinetist Bill Smith), and, more importantly, expanded their solo spaces, giving his musicians room to have their say.

Listeners get to reap those rewards. From De Lucia’s own muscular alto workout on “I Hear a Rhapsody” to pianist Glenn Zaleski, tenor saxophonist Scott Robinson, and trumpeter Brandon Lee’s gleeful runs on “IPCA” to Robinson and trombonist Becca Patterson’s thoughtful, enigmatic submissions on “What Is This Thing Called Love,” the players offer irresistible interpretations and expressions on the historical arrangements. 

As such, the music both remains a product of its time—an experimental thrill ride of the early bebop era—and crackles with renewed vigor and spontaneity at the hands of De Lucia and his cohorts. “This is the first time in 74 years that this music has been played and recorded again,” the alto saxophonist writes. “I think the results turned out great!” Indeed they have.

Jon De Lucia was born November 26, 1980 in Quincy, Massachusetts—just outside Boston, a garden spot for musical studies (and jazz studies in particular). Studying with Berklee College of Music woodwind professor Dino Govoni since high school, De Lucia headed directly for the Boston conservatory after graduating—where he was quickly diverted from his ambition to write video-game music. 

Instead, he was inspired by the high caliber of classmates like Kendrick Scott and Walter Smith III to live up to their jazz chops. De Lucia added a performance major to his studies, and, in addition to jazz, also studied folkloric musics from around the world. His lens widened yet again after he graduated from Berklee in 2005 and moved to New York, where he played and studied with a variety of jazz masters and also began exploring the world of Baroque music. 

Thus his first recording was a postbop jazz sextet session, Face No Face (2006), but De Lucia’s longest-lived project is his Luce Trio, with guitarist Ryan Ferreira and bassist Chris Tordini, now Tatsuya Sakurai and Aidan O’Donnell, which improvises on the compositions of Bach, Handel, and Dowland as well as Baroque-influenced jazz composers like John Lewis and Jimmy Giuffre. 

It was in pursuit of the lattermost composer that De Lucia formed his Octet in 2016, a vessel for investigating Giuffre’s 1959 octet arrangements for saxophonist Lee Konitz. The Octet turned out to outlast the Giuffre project, and De Lucia’s desire to keep replenishing its repertoire led him to the Van Kriedt and Brubeck arrangements that form the basis of his Brubeck Octet Project.

The Jon De Lucia Octet will perform music from The Brubeck Octet Project at Birdland, 315 W. 44th Street, on Sunday 7/14, 5:30pm.

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