The whole first side of the album, the composition “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra”, was composed by Dave Brubeck’s brother, Howard Brubeck. The second side consists of arrangements of five of the best known Bernstein tracks from the musicals Wonderful Town and West Side Story.
The album started to take shape when “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra” was premiered at a New York Philharmonic series on December 10, 11 and 13, 1959 – Leonard Bernstein conducting. This was considered at the time to be an early, successful jazz/classical crossover (music) project – similar to those that had already been initiated by the Modern Jazz Quartet, Gunther Schuller and their peers in the study of what Schuller termed “Third Stream” music.
“In this work an attempt is made to construct a score giving the orchestra an important part to play which adheres strictly to written notes, while the particular combination, or “combo,” of jazz instruments, is free to improvise on the material of the movement...” - Howard Brubeck (Original LP liner notes)