Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
At the opening of his 2009 Newport Jazz Festival appearance, Dave Brubeck said, “A few concerts ago, we were in Washington, D.C., and [it] was Duke Ellington Month. So every church, joint and street corner were doing Duke Ellington, and I said to myself, ‘He was my mentor, he helped me get started. Why don’t I do some Ellington?’ [And I said to the guys], ‘Follow me, and I’ll think of tunes as we go along.’”
The Dave Brubeck Quartet got rolling with that “follow me” and an Ellington medley including “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”
Three months later, on Brubeck’s 89th birthday, the Kennedy Center honored him along with Mel Brooks, Grace Bumbry, Robert DeNiro and Bruce Springsteen for lifetime achievement in the performing arts. The citation reads: “Dave Brubeck’s genius has dazzled us for six decades, and has helped to define an American art form.” Brubeck responded that it was significant to him that the honor recognized the importance of jazz. At the Kennedy Center Honors concert, Brubeck and his wife Iola looked down from box seats as their sons played his music. Their daughter Catherine is instrumental in Jazz’d 4 Life, an organization that helps young people worldwide.
Dave Brubeck was born Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord, Calif. He died Dec. 5 in his adopted home state of Connecticut. In his six-decade career, Brubeck performed and recorded with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic; composed music for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II; and played for Presidents from Johnson to Reagan to Obama. Years before, when Obama was only 10 years old, he attended his first Dave Brubeck concert.
When I was in high school, I saw my first Dave Brubeck performance. It was in Milwaukee, Wis. After almost a decade of piano lessons, I couldn’t play even the simplest song by ear. Brubeck swung the door open to a new world of free-flowing, where-is-this-going music. Countless people everywhere followed their first Dave Brubeck concert or recording with a lifelong interest in jazz.
It is our joy to reach into the Dave Brubeck archive for this set from Newport, where he was very much at home. Long live his music.
- Dave Brubeck, piano
- Bobby Militello, flute and sax
- Michael Moore, bass
- Randy Jones, drums
- “C Jam Blues”/”Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”/”Mood Indigo”/”Take the ‘A’ Train” (Ellington/Strayhorn medley)
- “Stormy Weather” (Arlen/Koehler)
- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (Fields/McHugh)
- “Take Five” (Desmond)
- “Thank You (Dziekuje)” (Brubeck)
Recording by Steve Remote, Aura Sonic Ltd.; remix in surround sound by Duke Markos.