WEMU Remembers Dave Brubeck
When we learned about Dave Brubeck's death at WEMU it felt like there was a huge hole in our musical fabric. We serve the Ann Arbor, Michigan area where Dave performed on multiple occasions starting in the 1950s up to 2006. He was truly beloved by music fans in Ann Arbor. He was affectionately referred to as "Uncle Dave". I would imagine that other communities would feel this way about him as well. His sincerity, spirituality, energy, intelligence, integrity and generosity allowed him to transcend all human boundaries be it age, race or culture.
While we are mixing a bit more of Mr. Brubeck's music in Today, it would not be unusual to hear Dave Brubeck at any time on WEMU. Our listeners love the classic quartet pieces but also appreciate his newer recordings with his sons and special guests. "Take Five" remains a perennial request along with his great version of "Estrellita" and the vocal recordings with Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae.
Dave Brubeck helped popularize modern jazz in many, many ways. He knew to take the music to college concert halls because the young listener at age 20 is open to new musical ideas. His polyrhythms and use of uncommon time signatures became popular and widely acceptable. The captivating melodies coupled with surprises in the beat and solos were mesmerizing to 1950s listeners looking for something fresh in jazz from standard swing forms.
Mr. Brubeck was asked to be an international musical ambassador by the U.S. State Department in the 1960s. One could think of no better individual for this honor. He was a world war two veteran. He served with African-American soldiers who were heroes overseas and then were second class citizens when they returned to their home country after the war. He was a tireless crusader for civil and human rights. He was also a down to earth, real nice guy. A brilliant pianist and composer, a family man, with grace, poise, elegance and a sense of humor - this is the kind of person you want representing your culture all around the globe and Dave excelled in the role.
I had the great pleasure of working with Dave Brubeck twice. The first occasion was in 1983 prior to a live concert recording at Finney Chapel in Oberlin, Ohio to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the landmark recording "Jazz Goes To College". Dave and I walked about Oberlin's beautiful campus and talked about what is truly important in life: family, friends, honesty, creativity and making an effort to do your best. We then returned to the Finney Chapel dressing room and did a formal interview for Concord records, but the stroll under Oberlin's buckeye trees is what I'll remember forever.
In 2006, The University Musical Society in Ann Arbor asked me to host a "Meet The Artist" session with Dave at the school of music. Even though I had spent significant time with Mr. Brubeck in Oberlin, I was quite nervous about this interview in front of a live audience. I needn't have felt that way. Dave was relaxed and easy to talk to. We had lines of students and community members with great questions and Dave entertained them all graciously.
Dave Brubeck's music is timeless. He poured so much spirit, emotion and intelligence into his work that it communicates with all on earth.
Linda Yohn (Go to Top)
From Jessica Webster
I met Dave Brubeck on several occasions, and treasure every conversation we had and every note I heard him play.
One memory that stands out in particular comes from a workshop that I emceed with him at the Detroit Jazz Festival back in the early 90s.
I had just finished a crazy workshop with Betty Carter, who really didn't want me there. So when I got to the stage with Dave, I introduced myself and told him I'd stay out of his way as much as he wanted.
"I'm actually really nervous," said this legend of music to me. "Can you please just stay on stage with me? I'm worried no one will have any questions. Would you mind just staying up there with me so I don't have to worry about anything getting awkward?"
He was so sweet, so very humble, so human.
Jessica Webster (Go to Top)
Dave Brubeck was a very big part of my introduction to jazz, but of course that was true for millions. I saw the classic quartet with Desmond, Wright & Morello in California in the early 60's. I didn't know then what a struggle it was to tour with an integrated band. It just seemed natural to me. Only later did I realize what a revolutionary he was. I bought most of his Fantasy and Columbia records on 45 RPM Extended Plays. I still have them. Seeing him several times over the last 10 years or so at the Detroit Jazz Fest added a lot of depth to my appreciation of his contributions and legacy. I didn't have much personal interaction with him -- just a couple of brief greetings -- but his pleasure in being here and playing here was very apparent. So was his humility, warmth and deep humanity. A living legend who was also a nice man. And what an mazing body of work over a span of more than 60 years. RIP Dave Brubeck. George (Go to Top)
From Michael G. Nastos
My grateful and appreciative farewell to Dave Brubeck cannot be overstated.
I first really heard jazz through Brubeck’s magnum opus “Take Five,” and the still riveting drum solo of Joe Morello. I was taken by the composition and musicianship, but real jazz was still quite foreign to me, though I heard it in other forms of music..
By the late ‘50s, I was familiar with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny Burrell (via the Soupy Sales TV program in Detroit,) and John Coltrane. Jazz as a whole did not fully resonate with me until I went to college.
My personal association with the Brubeck’s was initially more friendly than artistic, due to my knowing Chris Brubeck, who attended the University Of Michigan at a time when I was Music Director at WCBN-FM.
Local bands New Heavenly Blue and Sky King, along with the Two Generations of Brubeck, solidified my connections with the Brubeck’s, due especially to my lifelong friend, the brilliant Peter “Madcat” Ruth. It also expanded my horizons to hear such progressive musicians as Anthony Braxton and Perry Robinson, people who I worked for or with respectively in Woodstock, N.Y. at the Creative Music Studio. I also have to mention Dave Bartlebaugh, another member of the Brubeck’s inner circle, and sound engineer par excellance.
Over the years, I M.C.’d for Dave’s concerts, marveled at his ability to play in a staggeringly high, creative level over the decades, and evolve at a pace few musicians have ever achieved. In the holiday season, I think of the many times in Ann Arbor when he performed his Mexican ode to this time of the year “La Fiesta De La Posada”. Please check out the recording of this triumphant work.
I’m not alone in sending my love and condolences to his wife Iola, sons Chris, Darius, Danny, Matthew, and the entire nuclear or extended Brubeck family, which I consider to be one. Bottom line – no Dave Brubeck – no me, in all that I am and continue to be. Thank you Dave!
-Michael G. Nastos (Go to Top)
From Mary Catherine Smith
My mom had a copy of Time Out, and I listened to it over and over when I was young. He was my introduction to jazz. Actually, for a kid from Petoskey in the '60s and early '70s, he was jazz. And like so many others, I was so happy to have had the opportunity to see him at the DJF over the last 10 years. His love of the music and his appreciation for the people who attended his performances were greatly evident.
Another giant left us today too - Oscar Niemeyer passed away at the age of 104. He was the architect who designed the futuristic buildings in Brasilia and throughout Brazil. RIP Dave and Oscar
Another thought from Linda:
I've loved Mr. Brubeck's music for years. Like Mary Catherine, my mother also had "Time Out" and we listened to it when I was a little girl. I attended Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. The school colors were Tan & Cardinal. The coffee shop was called The Cardinal's Roost and I was a regular, playing bridge with my theater friends. You could always tell that I was in the joint. My "three plays for a quarter" were "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Take Five".