In 1967, Dave Brubeck decided to disband his long-running quartet with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello at the end of the year. Crowds turned out to catch the group for a final time, though this is only the fourth issued live recording from the tour, possibly recorded from the front of the concert hall, since the audience seems more prominent than usual, and the sound is in mono and not quite as well-recorded as the earlier releases, though the performances are of high caliber. The source of these recordings were long forgotten tape reels found in Brubeck's home by his long time manager Russell Gloyd.
Brubeck kicks things off by launching into one of his perennial favorites to open concerts, "St. Louis Blues," played in a breezy manner similar to their earlier recorded versions. Brubeck's "Three to Get Ready (And Four to Go)" was already a favorite of his fans, while Desmond whimsically inserts a bit of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" into his solo (for this concert taped on December 26), while Brubeck can be heard softly singing along with his solo. The quartet learned the Mexican folk song "La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove)" prior to their tour of Mexico earlier in the year and it became a staple in Brubeck's repertoire afterward. The pianist is at his most lyrical in this touching ballad, with Desmond's spacious, melancholy alto adding a nice touch, along with Wright's solid groove and Morello's soft brushes. The band sizzles in their treatment of "Take the 'A' Train" and sounds jubilant with their rousing rendition of "Someday My Prince Will Come" to end the first set, both pieces which were part of Brubeck's performance repertoire over four decades later.
To open the second set, the quartet launches a pulsating "Swanee River" in which the leader humorously works the standard "Lullaby of the Leaves" into his solo. Desmond's role is minimal in Brubeck's breezy "I'm in a Dancing Mood," with the focus being on the pianist and Morello. The standard "You Go to My Head" was long a feature for Desmond, who plays an inventive solo with Wright's swinging bass backing his as Brubeck stays mostly in the background. The drummer also has an extended feature to open "For Drummer's Only" to showcase his widely admired technique. It is inevitable that the evening had to close with a rousing performance of the quartet's signature tune "Take Five," which they manage to keep from going stale in spite of having to play it nearly every night after it became a best-selling single. Desmond's humor is in full force in his solo, while Brubeck's feature takes an exotic twist with a Middle Eastern flavor. Fans of Dave Brubeck will welcome the addition of this historic concert to his vast discography.