WBGO Blog
  • Bourne's Montreal: FIJM 2013 Dedicated to Dave Brubeck

    July 9, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    A photograph of Dave Brubeck looked over us from atop Montreal's Place des Arts. FIJM 2013 was dedicated to him. He'd played concerts most of the festival's 34 years. "He was a great friend," said artistic director Andre Menard. "He was the one artist invited to play every year."

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    Photo by David Tallacksen

    Wherever he played in the world, he smiled and he laughed, but nowhere more than in Montreal. "It's a jazz audience," Dave said to me at the 2009 jazzfest. "Right there, you're a step ahead of most audiences. Here, you better realize that you've got a lot of sharp minds out there."

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    On this year's final festival evening, The Brubeck Brothers, bassist Chris and drummer Dan, played a tribute to their father at Theatre Duceppe. Chuck Lamb played piano. Mike DeMicco played guitar. "Bossa Nova USA" and "Kathy's Waltz" were charming for starters. "You're probably here because you like melodies," said Chris as a welcome.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Chris told stories about his dad, especially about how some of Dave's classics came about. "Blues for Newport" was composed impromptu ("in three minutes") at Newport when Dave was told the Quartet was being recorded. Chris, Slam-like, scatted along with his electric bass.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Chris observed that nobody knows where Chuck Lamb will go when he's featured solo. Chuck played in and around the song "Someday My Prince Will Come" (on the Brubeck album "Dave Digs Disney") as a prelude to "Strange Meadowlark," the Brubeck classic that first turned me on to jazz.

    Chris remembered when he and Dan were kids, when their father came home from a long-night gig and their mother said not to wake him. "We were in our room playing all these Disney records," said Chris, "and he must have heard all those songs through the wall. We figure all those songs got into his dreams."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Dave composed an exotic groover called "The Jazzanians" inspired by his son Darius. Darius plays piano and, when he lived for years in South Africa, he gathered a band with musicians of all races.

    "My One Bad Habit," a beautiful ballad recorded by Carmen McRae, was inspired by Ella Fitzgerald. His father was hanging with Ella one night after a gig, said Chris.

    "She was in a funk. He asked what was wrong. She said 'Dave, my one bad habit is falling in love.'"

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Chris played Ella's lament from the deepest heart of his trombone. Iola Brubeck, mother of the Brothers, wrote the lyric to "My One Bad Habit" and inspired "In Your Own Sweet Way," played by everyone... sweetly.

    Three of Montreal's best -- bassist Adrian Vedady, saxophonist Chet Doxas, and pianist Lorraine Desmarais -- joined the Brothers for several highlights, especially one of Brubeck's least-known but most exquisite songs, also for his wife of more than 70 years, "For Iola."

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    "Take Five" was the inevitable climax with DeMicco's guitar standing in for Paul Desmond and everyone soloing, including an expected spectacular drum solo from Dan Brubeck.

    Chris Brubeck repeated the legend of his father's most famous classic, about Dave walking along a street in Istanbul, hearing street musicians playing a wild rhythm, and from that rhythm composing "Blue Rondo a la Turk."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    "It's one of the most fantastic, self-propelling songs ever written," said Chris, getting to play both his bass and his trombone with everyone together at the last. Chuck and Lorraine switched back and forth between piano and an electronic keyboard. Lorraine played a solo so rollicking, she was pulled up to her feet by the rhythm.

    "We were playing at the Hollywood Bowl," said Chris after the show. They were all talking. Nobody was listening." Unlike the audience of FIJM. What he said from the stage to them echoed his father's feeling for playing at the festival. "You're a great audience," said Chris to the sharp (and happy) minds of Montreal.

  • Bourne's Montreal Interview With Chris Brubeck

    July 1, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Brubeck talks about his experiences performing and composing with his father Dave Brubeck, at the Festival International du Jazz de Montreal, where the late pianist is being honored.

    To hear all three segments of the interview, click on the links below. Enjoy!

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    Photo by Corbin

  • A Celebration of the Life and Music of Dave Brubeck

    May 12, 2013. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Just before 4:00 Saturday afternoon, thunder clapped outside St. John the Divine on Amsterdam and 113th St. Inside, Dave's widow Iola Brubeck spoke, her voice steady, strong and lower pitched than I expected. She and Dave were married for 70 years. Since her husband's death, Mrs. Brubeck and her family have received and read hundreds of letters, she said, and the word JOY kept popping up. They planned this celebration to capture some of that joy.

    She went on to say (paraphrasing) that she and Dave first entered this cathedral on Duke Ellington's birthday, April 29, 1976 - two years after his death. The event was called Ellington Forever. The Duke Ellington Orchestra played, Mercer Ellington directing, with the Youth Symphony Orchestra and a choir, a constellation of guest artists, a United Nations of diplomats, and First Lady Betty Ford in attendance.

    Brubeck_croppedAn arc from Duke through Dave touched down on us yesterday in this, the world's largest cathedral, full of people from stem to stern. We gathered for stories and music. Sirius XM's Mark Ruffin hosted. Twenty-eight musicians performed, sharing the Brubeck impulses toward justice and joy.

    Dave and Iola's daughter Cathy told us how she would dance, crash and twirl around the living room as her dad and brothers played. She introduced  Matthew, Darius, Chris and Dan Brubeck on cello, piano, bass and drums and "Cathy's Waltz." Then in a smooth sequence varied groups offered a Japanese melody, a blues with lyric by Iola, piano duet on "The Duke," "The Golden Horn" composed on the Turkish phrase for "Thank you" featuring exceptional moments from Renee Rosnes and trumpeter Randy Brecker, and a movement from Dave's ballet Glances. Chris and Dan Brubeck were recurrent players on bass and drums.

    In letters read by Dave's producer Russell Gloyd, Mayor Bloomberg and President Clinton both noted that the first jazz concerts they ever saw were Dave Brubeck concerts. (Me too. Milwaukee. 1965?) Clinton wrote that - at age 15 - after he persuaded a dear friend to drive him 50 miles to see Brubeck, "I went home and practiced until my lips bled." In 1994 Clinton presented Brubeck with a National Medal of the Arts.

    Eugene Wright, the bassist and sole survivor of the Dave Brubeck Quartet of 1958-67, played "King For A Day" with Darius Brubeck on piano. Dave was quoted as saying that Wright had a "Jackie Robinson kind of dignity." Wright's full, round tone is still a joy, 45 years later. In 1962 President Kennedy invited the Brubeck Quartet to play at a party for White House interns. Tony Bennett joined them with no rehearsal on four tunes. Columbia Records recently discovered the tapes, misfiled, and on May 28 will release this momento from Camelot. From it we heard "There Will Never Be Another You," fast and swinging and present, and Tony Bennett stepped up to say that when he sang with Dave at Newport, the New Orleans Festival and Montreal, it was always spontaneous and unexpected.

    Branford Marsalis interpreted "For Iola" on soprano, a beautiful reading. Chick Corea was the only pianist to play alone, "Strange Meadowlark." Young graduates of the Brubeck Institute in California played "Blue Rondo a la Turk," and there was a great short session on "Blues for Newport" with the tick tock of a clock built into the melody.

    St. John the Divine is so reverberant that Iola - in her welcome - suggested that music from the 1985 performance of Dave's Mass to Hope might still be present in the space. I hope it is true of yesterday's shared joy as well.