Raga Theme for Ragu
Dave Brubeck featuring Ragu Raga Theme for Ragu b/w Do Not Fold Staple, Spindle or Mutilate 45
By 1967, it was pretty common for jazz musicians to dabble in psychedelia. Of course, those jamming on free jazz had already been working with out there material, reaching to the East or way into the American past to find sounds to recontextualize. Ayler, Coltrane, Ornette, Pharoah, Dolphy: Those are the big names we associate with such experimentalism. Dave Brubeck? Yes, Dave Burbeck. For one brief moment, Dave Brubeck went from the campus library to the off campus head shop and then recorded this gem of a 45. Maybe...but I'll get back to that.
Unlike anything Brubeck had recorded, "Raga Theme for Ragu" starts out with a low drone, a few very cool piano runs, and then what sounds like a guitar imitating a sitar comes in. Palghat Ragu joins the band, on the mridangam, an Indian drum. It is a good jam, with Brubeck playing a few themes over and over, even getting a bit discordant. "Raga Theme..." was included on the album Summit Sessions. The flip side of this record was not.
"Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle or Mutilate" is Brubeck at his loudest. The drums start this fucker off and they do nothing less than pound their way in. The bass plays a short theme and then Brubeck does a series of loud runs, each ending with a clank. Ragu does a little bit. Dave comes back and pounds. The pounding is both pinpoint and abstract. It is the most wild I've ever heard him. Another drum interlude, clang, and it is over. What a great fucking tune!
Now, there is no recording information on this record. Although, "Raga Theme..." came out on this single and on the Summit Sessions LP, much of that record was recorded in different sessions and no date is fixed to this song or "Do Not Fold..." One book states that Brubeck first jammed with Pahghat Ragu in 1958, the same year Burbeck's Jazz Impressions of Eurasia was released (a great record there). But Ragu isn't credited at playing on Eurasia. The great Teo Macero produced Eurasia and this single and that would muck up things further if not that Macero produced a lot of Brubeck over the years. If Brubeck did indeed record this stuff back in '58, it was a pretty bold move. For Brubeck, doing it in '67 was pretty out of character, however everyone else was doing it at the time. Perhaps, some Brubeck freak out there can clear this up.
Sorry about the quality of the record. It is a bit beat, but what do you expect for a dollar find. I'd get a near mint replacement copy but that would run me $40+. I'll stick with some surface noise.