Chris Osborne

Dave Brubeck .. born December 6, 1920 .. in a magical new painting

Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Iola Brubeck and the 1951 Frazer Vagabond, Painting by Chris Osborne
FOREGROUND: Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck of the Dave Brubeck Quartet with  Iola Brubeck in the 1951 Frazer Vagabond in San Francisco

Chris Osborne of New Milford, Connecticut, is a magical painter of musicians and the cars they loved. She has exhibited at WBGO and the Litchfield Jazz Festival as well. In an earlier life, Chris was the jazz buyer at Tower Records near Lincoln Center.

Today, I'm thinking of Chris because of her fantastic painting of Dave Brubeck, born 91 years ago in Concord, CA. He and his Frazer Vagabond are the subjects of one of Osborne's most recent works of art.

"The vehicle locks in the time," she says, perhaps punning lightly on Brubeck's 1959 album Time Out. In this case, the Vagabond built by Kaiser-Frazer and the Black Hawk marquis establish a great era in Dave Brubeck's career.

The Vagabond was one of the first cars to have a hatchback; you have to appreciate those beautiful wooden slats, ideal for rolling your luggage in and out.

In this large format acrylic, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello -- the other two members of the 1950s Brubeck Quartet -- stand by the awning, near the street sign showing the actual Black Hawk corner. Painter Chris Osborne was able to find only two extant images of the club. One is on the Miles Davis album art; the other is a black and white photo that shows pianist John Lewis by the door. Today, there's an empty lot where the famous BH used to be.

Painting by Chris Osborne, photograph by Patricia Bolgosano
Painting by Chris Osborne, photograph by Patricia Bolgosano

Chris writes, "This painting evolved as I worked on it and read Dave's bio [It's About Time by Fred M. Hall]. At first I just had a figure (Dave) and the car and was thinking of a San Francisco Bay scene, but the Black Hawk seemed like a true jazz image. Then I read how important Iola was to Dave's career, and friends kept saying 'you have to put Paul Desmond in there'... so, it became the whole quartet! . . . . [Later,] my friend Patricia Bolgosano took the excellent photos" of the Brubecks with the painting, and Dave and Chris, below.

When Dave saw the painting for the first time, he reminisced, exactly as Chris hoped he would. He recalled driving the Vagabond across country three times, from gig to gig. It's Iola who had tipped Chris off that the car had a black exterior and was red inside. And Dave's daughter Catherine remembered how the Vagabond was the family car when the Brubecks moved to Connecticut in 1960. Eventually, Dave took off the tires and left the Frazer in the yard, where the kids played in it.

Happy Birthday, Dave Brubeck!

See more of Chris Osborne's wonderful artwork here, and Patricia Bolgosano's photography here.

Brubeck signing the painting, with the artist Chris Osborne
Brubeck signing the canvas, with the artist Chris Osborne looking on