Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dave Brubeck's Dead: Long Live Dave Brubeck

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

My Dear America:

Certainly there are other topics for me to write about today such as our race toward the Fiscal Cliff but I still find myself thinking about a subject that is not very political but may be the most significant American Story to have occured since the recent election of President Obama in November.

Last week Dave Brubeck died.

Dave Brubeck was an extraordinary musician who lived a long and musically prolific life.  His musical career took off in the forties and especially the fifties and sixties.  He was musically active throughout his later life and continued to tour well into his later years and also wrote and recorded an extraordinary amount of mainly Jazz.  He was not limited to writing and performing Jazz, however and he wrote classical and religious music, as well.  

In 1959 Brubeck recorded and Columbia Records released his "Time Out" album in which Dave Brubeck explored the jazz possibilities of mixing different rhythm signatures and timings within the same tune.  Columbia Records was not happy with "Time Out" and threatened not to put it out, apparently feeling that it was not commercial enough to make money.  They did finally release it, however, and found to their amazement that the album instantly became the first million selling Jazz Album.  Brubeck was on the covers of such prestigious magazines as Time and Newsweek and the album received rave reviews for its courageous and successful musical experimentation.

I am listening to "Time Out" on CD as I write this letter and I am once again overwhelmed by the talent of Dave Brubeck and "The Dave Brubeck Quartet."

I was lucky enough to see The Dave Brubeck Quartet" in the early 60's at Wilkes College in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, just down the street from my College, King's College.  

I was not a Jazz lover before the concert and primarily went to the concert to see what all the fuss was about with "The Dave Brubeck Quartet" and "Time Out."    

I did find out what all the fuss was all about and after that concert by Dave on Piano, Joe Morello on drums, Eugene Wright on bass and Paul Desmond on Sax, I was a total Jazz convert to the gospel of Dave Brubeck.

I was lucky enough to see Dave many years later playing with another great Jazz Band, this one made up of his Dave and his Jazz playing sons.

That concert was incredible too and after the concert Dave stuck around to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him.

I didn't talk with him long and I don't really remember what we talked about but I found him to be a very friendly, engaging and humble guy.  His sons were awesome musicians, as well.

As I think about Dave Brubeck I am also taken back to an incident that happened several years ago.  I stopped in at The King George Inn, a local club  where a great jazz band was playing.  After the performance I began to talk to the band leader and Jazz pianist, Eric Mintel.  I told Eric that his piano playing reminded me of Dave Brubeck's and clearly Mintel was thrilled at what I had said.  Eric then told me that he had met Brubeck and that Brubeck had taken him under his wing and had become his Mentor.  Clearly Eric Mintel was thrilled with this happening.

Last year my wife and I went to see Eric Mintel play at Symphony Hall Jazz upstairs.  It was an extraordinary concert and you could hear Dave Brubeck's influence throughout the concert.  I bought the CD, "A Tribute to Dave Brubeck," that night and the band signed it.  I have been playing that and "Time Out" a lot this past week.

One other thing about Brubeck that I hadn't known until my wife pointed it out to me in the Morning Call Newspaper is that back in the early sixties Dave's Quartet played many black and white colleges in the south at a time when integration had yet to be accomplished.  Brubeck's incredible Quartet, including remarkable black bassist, Eugene Wright, helped to integrate several Colleges in the south.

So now that Dave Brubeck is gone after over 90 years on this earth how do we go on without him.  Well, Dave lives on in his countless recordings and in musicians like Eric Mintel, who have followed his lead and are now taking jazz to their own levels of expertise.  

We will love you and miss you, Dave but we are grateful for your music and your life and we will not soon forget you.  That's for sure.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher    

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