DAVE BRUBECK, pianist, composer, educator, Jazz Grand Master, icon was feted in Manhattan’s Cathedral Chuch of St,. John the Divine May 11, 2013.  (Dave passed the preceding December.)  the echoey edifice, the largest Gothic structure in the world is in the never-ending process of being built the old-fashioned way, by hand hewn stone.  myriad artists –28 in all– crossed the nave to honor Maestro Brubeck, plus his four musician male offspring, Darius, piano, Chris, electric bass guitar and bass trombone, Dan, drums, and Matthew, cello.  speakers included widow and librettist Iola, daughter Cathy, producer George Wein and manager and conductor Russell Gloyd.  Mark Ruffin hosted.

[the title of this appreciation alludes to the Brubeck penchant for composing in unsual time signatures often combining two or more.  the most famous, Take Five, was significantly absent as this was a program of Dave Brubeck music; his alto saxist Paul Desmond composed it.]

the entire program was given over to Dave Brubeck’s compositions save one.  vocalist Hilary Kole sang These Foolsh Things which she sang on a recording accompanied by Dave in his last in-studio performance.

the selections were all from Dave’s studio albums and those which are the results from his quartet’s tours of Europe and the Middle East as well as those performed in the United States.  as Wein recounted he didn’t appear on the first Newport Jazz Festival but holds the appearance record for the many times he did.

unannounced guest Tony Bennett reminisced of the Brubeck/Bennett duets which were never released.  we are promised they will be later this month.  their last time together was Newport 2009.

l-r: Tony Bennett, James R. Bancroft, family attorney, Iola Brubeck, George Wein, Deborah Ross, Wein Associate (photo © Richard Conde, courtesy Sue Auclair)

Dave accompanied many vocalists on recordngs.  one of those recordings was on the only-once-performed show/opera “The Real Ambassadors,” which featured Carmen McRae and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, as well Louis Armstrong for whom it was written.  Darius and bassist Eugene Wright –”the Senator”– the last surviving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet did King For A Day from that show.


above Eugene Wright, “The Senator” (©Frederic Sater) who played w/Darius Brubeck not shown

some other highlights: Koto Song (Paul Winter, alto sax –the echo suited him just fine– and Deepak Ram, wood flute); Travelin’ Blues (Andy Laverne, piano; Roberta Gamborini, vocals; Roy Hargrove, flugelhorn; Paquito D’Rivera, clarinet); The Duke (Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes four-handed piano); The Golden Horn (Randy Brecker  trumpet and D’Rivera (soprano sax); Doin’ The Charleston (John Salmon, solo piano); In Your Own Sweet Way (Mark Morganelli, trumpet; Michael Pedicin, Jr., sax; Gamborini); For Iola (Branford Marsalis, soprano sax); Strange Meadowlark (Chick Corea, solo piano); and finally Blues For Newport (Jon Faddis, trumpet.)

Chris Brubeck & Jon Faddis (© Richard Conde, courtesy Sue Auclair)


Chick Corea (© Frederic Sater)

Chris Brubeck, Branford Marsalis & Dan Brubeck (© Richard Conde, courtesy Sue Auclair)

Paquito D’Rivera & Chris Brubeck (©Richard Conde, courtesy Sue Auclair))

Miles Davis famously recorded In Your Own Sweet Way but flatted “Way.”  Dave said that forever thereafter audiences thought that he and not Davis was playing it incorrectly.

i first met Dave at Brooklyn College in 1956.  it was that concert which gave me the impetus to book jazz shows there every semester of my four years.  he never forgot our meeting as he constantly reminded me that he remembered when i had red hair.  alas, what remains is now grey.

text © arnold jay smith May 2013

photos © as indicated

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