Jarreau, Brubeck Fellows recall Dave Brubeck’s influence

Tributes for jazz great Dave Brubeck '42 continue to come in from around the world. Here are just a few who knew him and were influenced by his music and the way he lived his life.

Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau, the Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist and headliner of 2014 Brubeck Festival: Coast to Coast, took a moment to recall Dave Brubeck:

In 1960, Dave and Gene Wright and Joe Morello and Paul Desmond came to little Ripon College and reconfirmed my love for Brubeck Jazz. I had been listening to D.B.'s record "Time Out," which had "Take Five" on it, since its release.

When I heard Carmen McRae do a version of "Take Five" with a lyric (by Iola Brubeck), I just had to put that in my repertoire. Just at that time I was leaving the George Duke Trio and Half Note days, which made up one of the most important periods in my musical life, and I was about to begin another most important period in my musical life, which became the "Al Jarreau and Julio Martinez Duo" period. I found myself exploring extra-vocal type excursions - still my thumbprint to this day. The year was 1968 and "Take Five" locked itself into my musical repertoire and became a permanent fixture, providing a wonderful landscape for all my musical tangents. Lots of people have mentioned "Take Five" and my name in the same sentence. I'm flattered, and I still do it every performance.

After that, "Blue Rondo a la Turk" was a kind of natural next step, and I really loved the process of writing an original lyric for this fascinating Brubeck song in another odd time signature.

These two performances, and my obvious affinity for Jon Hendricks, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, George Duke, Take Six, Joe Zawinul, George Benson, and, yes, Johann Sebastian Bach (ask me later!) have helped put a label on me that I'm really proud of, a label identifying me as an adventuresome singer. And so, of course, joining Dave on stage and doing "Take Five" at the Playboy Jazz Festival was a premier highlight in my performing career. And 18,000 people thought it was pretty special, too.

I say, "Every day is Thanksgiving Day," a lot. And Dave Brubeck is an important person on my gratitude list. There are at least one or two more Dave Brubeck compositions that I'm doing a lyric for and am committed to recording ASAP.

 A special thank you to all of you at the Brubeck Institute for keeping the spirit of Dave well and alive, and making me a part of the extended family.

A Brubeck Anniversary: Jazz at the College of the Pacific-Celebrating a Landmark Recording

By Keith Hatschek

On December 14,1953, the Dave Brubeck Quartet played a concert at the College of the Pacific that was immortalized on the iconic album Jazz at the College of the Pacific (Fantasy OJCCD-047-2). The esteemed jazz critic Nat Hentoff gave the recording five stars at the time of its release and wrote that it, ". . . ranks with the Oberlin and Storyville sets as the best of Brubeck on record."

Time has done little to diminish the impact of this classic live recording. The set showcases the Quartet's ability to weave melodic, rhythmic and dynamic elements into a cohesive sound that is at once both easily accessible to the casual listener while offering a depth of contrapuntal and thematic invention that merits repeated listening by the jazz aficionado.

Since his 1942 graduation from College of Pacific, aka C.O.P., pianist Dave Brubeck had grown significantly as a musician and bandleader. Wartime service, leading the first integrated U.S. Army band, finding his own compositional voice while studying on the G.I. Bill with the storied French composer Darius Milhaud, marrying Iola Whitlock, eventually starting a family, leading his ground-breaking Jazz Workshop Octet, suffering a severe neck injury body surfing in Hawaii, founding the Dave Brubeck Trio and, eventually, the Dave Brubeck Quartet- life was never dull in the Brubeck family household!

The 1953 version of the Quartet was anchored by the smooth and swinging grooves established by drummer Joe Dodge and bassist Ron Crotty. Over their rhythmic bed, the free-ranging flights of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and Brubeck's own imaginative and singular improvisations would soar in the C.O.P. Music Conservatory's packed concert hall. The original release featured only about half of the performance, six songs (due to the time limitations of 33 1/3 LPs). While none of them was a Brubeck original, the enthusiastic response of the audience shows just how much the Quartet's interpretations connected with the student audience.

That night was the third time since his return from military service that Dave had performed in concert at his alma mater. All three of these early concerts were the result of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men's music fraternity, raising the money to hire Dave's various groups and bring them back to campus. In 1948, his experimental Jazz Workshop Octet, formed in 1946, performed on campus, presenting their new and imaginative take on jazz standards, as well as original pieces. Looking back on the Octet's music today, it is clear that they helped to establish a totally new direction in West Coast jazz, one that would be developed along similar lines by Miles Davis soon after with his own New York-based Nonet in 1949-50. Some of the Octet's earliest pieces can be heard on Dave Brubeck Octet, also available on Fantasy.

While the Octet provided inspiration to many, finding work that paid adequately for an eight-piece ensemble proved impossible, so Dave formed a trio and in 1950, they were invited back to perform at C.O.P., for another sold-out show. In 1951, as Dave was recovering from his Hawaiian misadventure (he had been there performing with his trio with drummer Cal Tjader and Jack Weeks subbing for Ron Crotty, who had been drafted), Brubeck wrote to Paul Desmond, a former member of the Octet, seeking to start a Quartet with Paul and a rhythm section. Tjader and Weeks had been asked by Fantasy to start a new group that would go on to success as the Cal Tjader Trio. With the prolonged convalescence that Dave's neck injury required, he invited Desmond to share the solo spotlight and make his own return to performing less strenuous.

Thus, the earliest incarnation of one of the most celebrated jazz groups in history was formed out of necessity in the wake of Dave's injury. With a few changes in the rhythm section, by 1953 they had hit their stride as can be heard on the seminal recording from March 1953, Jazz at Oberlin, and their various recordings spanning 1952-54 packaged as Jazz at Storyville.

Nick Phillips, Vice President of A&R and Jazz Catalog for Concord Music Group, which acquired Fantasy Records in the early 2000's adds his own perspective:

"Brubeck's Jazz at the College of Pacific recording is both one of the most exciting and popular of his Fantasy Records-era albums - exciting for both the performances and the unbridled audience reaction to them. Along with Jazz at Oberlin, it was also pioneering: Presenting and recording jazz concerts at colleges simply wasn't done before Brubeck did it. And it inspired a generation of college students to get into jazz."

Hearing the album today, the scintillating Brubeck-Desmond interplay at the end of "All the Things You Are" and the lyrical beauty suffused in the moving rendition of "Laura" demonstrate how these masters of invention could take any musical idea and make it uniquely original and captivating. There really was musical magic being made that night in the C.O.P. concert hall. Echoing the hearty applause heard on the LP, the then-student president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Wayne Morrill, contributed the erudite liner notes for the album, offering his appreciation from a musician's perspective, of the group's artistry. In closing, he wrote:

"So ended another memorable concert by the Brubeck group at C.O.P. We of Phi Mu Alpha and the College of Pacific are proud to have Dave as an alumnus, and to know Dave as an old friend. Dave can be sure that he and his groups have a faithful and eager audience at Pacific."

The remaining eight songs captured during that night of the concert recording languished in the vault until 2002, when Fantasy Records released them as Jazz at C.O.P. Volume 2. They may have been held back because they include a few of the arrangements featured on the earlier Oberlin LP. Writing about the additional Volume 2 set, critic Dave Rickert of All About Jazz, noted,

"Desmond gets plenty of solo time, really digging into the changes while showing a sense of humor by injecting quotes from "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" into "Love Walked In." At this point in time Brubeck was playing as rhythmically and forcefully as he ever would, and his Tatum-meets-Rachmaninoff style shows the origins of the exploratory work he would pursue later on."

Jazz Times concurred, with David Franklin noting that on the second volume the Quartet was "in top form . . . Desmond' s ideas seem inexhaustible . . . [and] Brubeck's solos overflow with invention . . . this one's a real find." Concord Music Group's Phillips offers one more reason for serious Brubeck fans to add Volume 2 to their collections:

"The CD release of Volume 2 is also illuminating in that it features a significant bonus track, a rare recorded performance by Brubeck while he was a C.O.P. student. Recorded in 1942, Brubeck's jazz solo piano rendition of 'I Found a New Baby' is an incredible display of musicality and jaw-dropping virtuosity."

So to experience the whole night's performance, albeit out of order from the actual fourteen-song set list that night, you'll need to buy both albums, which are readily available. The bonus performance from 1942 is the cherry on top.

Meanwhile, Dave's legacy is in good hands today. In 1999, Dave and his wife Iola, also a graduate of Pacific, selected what became University of the Pacific to be the home for the Brubeck Institute. The institute continues to support the Brubecks' mission to foster jazz education and scholarship, a commitment to bettering the world around us and a celebration of mankind's own interconnectedness, often using jazz and music as the point of connection and conversations.

It may have been a half century ago that this notable piece of jazz history was recorded here in Stockton, California, but the Quartet's playing sounds as fresh and vibrant today as it did then. Here's to celebrating a singular night of jazz well worth remembering fifty years on.

Keith Hatschek, is the director of the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music's Music Management Program. He is working on a book about Dave and Iola Brubeck's jazz musical, "The Real Ambassadors." He has written two books on the music industry and is a contributing writer to a music blog. This piece was written for the Rifftides jazz blog and is reprinted here with permission.