Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Take Five

Visiting the finely tuned jazz great Dave Brubeck



By Wendy Carlson (video below)

Dave Brubeck quite possibly could have ended up roping cattle instead of composing some of the most memorable pieces in the history of jazz. The legendary pianist credited with crossover, mainstream songs like “The Duke” and “In Your Own Sweet Way” celebrates his 90th birthday this year. But his life did not always flow as mellifluously as his music. “There were many years it was very, very rough. I remember my dad saying to me, ‘You can always come home,’” says Brubeck, at home in his sun-filled studio in Wilton.

Brubeck’s father managed a California cattle farm, setting aside four cows for his youngest son to tend after he graduated from grammar school. Brubeck Sr.’s intention was that his son would return one day to the ranch. At times, with money tight and a family to raise, ranching seemed to Dave a promising alternative to the relentless grind of road tours. But once the Dave Brubeck Quartet released the 1959 album “Time Out,” which fast became one of the best-known and biggest-selling jazz albums of all time, life as a cattle hand had long faded away.

For more than 70 years, Brubeck has been making jazz. He continues to compose and perform with the latest incarnation of his quartet in such venues as the Ravinia Jazz Festival in Chicago and up in Kent at this year’s Litchfield Jazz Festival, August 6-8, which is dedicated to him. A documentary on his life produced by jazz enthusiast Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Ricker is scheduled to air on his birthday, December 6. “Ah, Eastwood,” muses Brubeck. “He’s been following me around since he was 15 years old.”

Throughout his career Brubeck has won numerous national and international awards, including a Kennedy Center Honor last year for his lifetime contribution to American culture. Though the awards keep coming, for a few quiet minutes at his Wilton home, Brubeck sits reposed in front of one of his two 1949 concert grand Baldwins, reflecting on the future of jazz and his contributions to the genre.

Best known for his innovative, odd-time signatures in pieces like “Take Five,” written by the Quartet’s late saxphonist Paul Desmond, Brubeck’s later contributions to jazz have been equally creative. There’s the jazz opera, Cannery Row Suite, based on John Steinbeck’s classic American novel, and a composition set to the photography of Ansel Adams. 

“When I was in college, one of my favorite professors used to say, ‘We are the sum of our past.’ I am not the same person who sat down to compose 50 years ago. Back then, I would not have had the background in composition or an understanding of photography or Ansel Adam’s life and his devotion to nature to have written such a piece.”

With the Dave Brubeck Quartet, whose current members include Bobby Militello, Randy Jones, and Michael Moore, Brubeck continues improvising, giving old tunes a fresh start. He keeps tabs on young jazz pianists such as Taylor Eigsti and Liam Noble, who are charting new territory, and supports emerging musicians through the Brubeck Institute at his California alma mater, University of the Pacific.

Regrettably, the music industry is less receptive to jazz than it was in the 1950s, admits Brubeck. Nevertheless, the medium is firmly embedded in the fabric of our culture in ways we might not even realize. “If you go to a big-league football game, there’s often a band playing some jazz during half-time, or during a Broadway play there’s often jazz influences. If you just go to a movie and there’s a chase scene, usually there’s some wonderful jazz music leading you on that chase.”

As Brubeck sees it, there will always be a jazz audience as well as an audience that doesn’t appreciate jazz until they really listen and the light suddenly goes on. “On the college level, it’s gone from rejecting jazz to respecting it,” he says. “You can get a degree in jazz music now in many great music schools.” As for the California ranch? “Well,” says Brubeck, as he runs his fingers over the piano keys, “that’s long gone.”

 

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

             

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

Weekend activities and events in the area
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Perfect Balance

In the last two decades, many new rowing clubs have been established on Connecticut rivers, Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. There are beginner rowers who are looking for a new hobby, there are student rowers being recruited by Ivy League schools and there are people who have been rowing most of their lives because they love the camaraderie.

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

September 2016

Families from Wilton and beyond descend upon Ambler Farm for our yearly fall festival.  Enjoy the Apple Slingshot, visiting with our Farm Animals, Make-Your-Own-Scarecrow, Hay Rides, Trebuchet...

Cost: $20 per family at the entrance

Where:
Ambler Farm
257 Hurlbutt Street
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25 Awesome Autumn Book Sale Fundraiser, Friday 12 – 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.* Everyone is covered in this fundraiser...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Destiny/fate is the theme of the new fall exhibit “Kismet” at The City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery.  “Kismet” runs now through December...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 120-383-19063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Destiny/fate is the theme of the new fall exhibit “Kismet” at The City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery.  “Kismet” runs now through December...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 120-383-19063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Destiny/fate is the theme of the new fall exhibit “Kismet” at The City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery.  “Kismet” runs now through December...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 120-383-19063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Thursday, September 29 No Letting Go Film Screening & Discussion, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Please join us for a screening of the award-winning feature film, No Letting Go. This poignant film...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

Help raise funds to sponsor a puppy at the L’Armoire cocktail party fundraiser for Puppies Behind Bars on Thursday, September 29th between 5.30-7.30pm.  Providing delicious...

Cost: FREE

Where:
L'Armoire
102 Park Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Thursday, September 29 Yellow Dress Performance, 7 – 8:30 p.m. The Yellow Dress is a dramatic one-woman play based on the stories of young women who were victims of dating violence. The...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

Destiny/fate is the theme of the new fall exhibit “Kismet” at The City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery.  “Kismet” runs now through December...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 120-383-19063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Destiny/fate is the theme of the new fall exhibit “Kismet” at The City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery.  “Kismet” runs now through December...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 120-383-19063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

he New Canaan Nature Center's 5th Harvest Festival takes place on Saturday, October 1st from 7-10pm. Enjoy the social evening in the meadow, under illuminated tents...

Cost: $75 in advance

Where:
New Canaan Nature Center
144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Music on the Hill presents a new work by artistic director Ellen Dickinson. "Threads of Light: A Tapestry of African-American Spirituals" weaves together 30 spirituals in three movements...

Cost: free

Where:
Norwalk Concert Hall
125 East Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06851
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra A World of Possibilities Barbara Yahr, Conductor       Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. Bruch – Violin Concerto No....

Cost: Tickets: $25, $45 & $60 - Senior & Student Discounts Available.

Where:
Ridgefield High School Auditorium
700 North Salem Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 203-438-3889
Contact Name: Laurie Kenagy
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition “Martin Kline: Paintings and Sculpture” featuring a selection Kline’s new series of white paintings along...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags