Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dave Brubeck: A Life in American Music [From the Archives]

This is another of our efforts to "put it all in one place." Originally published in three parts in March/April 2010, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles decided to combine and re-post these features so that they could be archived in the manner in which they were originally written by Doug Ramsey - as a completed essay. It also gave me an opportunity to add a six video "Dave Brubeck Playlist" to its conclusion.

I've always been grateful for the magic created by the music of Dave Brubeck, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello - aka, The Classic Dave Brubeck Quartet.

The Jazz world would have been a poorer place without it and poorer still had not Doug Ramsey chronicled it.


Part 1


No one writes about Jazz in general and about Dave Brubeck in particular like Doug Ramsey, unless, of course, Doug is writing about Dave’s long-time musical associate and their mutual friend, the late alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond.

Concerning the latter, Doug is the author of  Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

Doug still writes about Jazz on a daily basis for his blog Riffitides and for other publications.

And nowhere are his unique insights and in-depth knowledge about Dave Brubeck and his music better revealed that in the lengthy essay he prepared as the insert notes to the Columbia/Sony Records boxed set Dave Brubeck: Time Signatures - A Career Retrospective

The editorial staff is privileged and honored to post on JazzProfiles, Doug’s exemplary essay - DAVE BRUBECK: A LIFE IN AMERICAN MUSIC – which will be featured on the site in three parts.


© -Doug Ramsey. Reprinted with the permission of the author; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Some time ago, a woman in Connecticut, where Dave Brubeck lives, was looking for a pianist to play a wedding. Having got hold of a musicians union directory, she called a number she found under the "Piano" heading. Brubeck was considering taking the job, for scale, the minimum amount of pay the union allows a player to accept. But finally the name attached to the phone number registered with the woman. She shrieked in embarrassment, apologized profusely for what she believed had been an insult, and hung up.

"Usually, I play at weddings only for close friends," Brubeck joked later. "But I was thinking it over."

He may also have been thinking about the years following World War II, when his dream was to make scale. The earliest recording in this collec­tion is from 1946, when that dream seemed closer and there was hope of getting out of the poverty of a struggling musician fresh out of the Army. The most recent recording is from 1991. Brubeck, now famous around the world, still carries the memory of living with his wife and babies in a corrugated tin room without windows.

The music here includes recordings from a period during which Brubeck and his quartet galvanized an entire college generation's interest in jazz, made the cover of Time magazine, became the first instrumental group to sell a million records (Time Out], opened the jazz community to the possibilities of improvisation in time signatures such as 5/4,7/4,9/8,11/4, and 13/4, and was on the road more or less continuously, playing for audiences at home and in India, Poland, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Holland, Argentina, the Soviet Union, and most of the rest of the United Nations.

Brubeck's importance to and influence on jazz are undeniable, except by some of the jazz "elite" and the constituency it has educated to believe that the enormous popularity of the quartet was proof that wide commer­cial acceptance is tantamount to artistic sellout. The same charge has been made against Louis Armstrong, Cannonball Adderley, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and just about any solvent jazz musician.

FAME AND THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

In 1953, before it was considered commercially successful, the Dave Brubeck Quartet won first place in both the Critic's Poll and the Reader's Poll in Down Beat Magazine. With recognition came detraction. Some of the reasons are rooted in the complexities of ethnocentrism, clannishness, commercialism, and transitory values in our society. Others are as ancient as the jealous ego. But time, not the jazz establishment of the moment, will evaluate the permanence of Brubeck's contributions. It will take into account his work as a pianist whose individualism does not always match the conventional view of what is proper in jazz piano, as a song writer of power and lyricism, as a long-form composer of secular and religious music, and as a leader who harnessed and melded the talents of men with personalities that, like his own, grew out of strength, even obstinacy.

Brubeck needed strength when he emerged from the Army at the end of the war, burning to develop ideas that had germinated through an active musical childhood and his years of studying music at College of the Pacific in StocktonCaliforniaDave had been playing the piano since he was four years old in ConcordCalifornia, where he was born on December 6, 1920. Music was an important part of his life even when, from the age of 13, he started working as a cowboy on the 45,000 acre cattle ranch managed by his father.

RHYTHMS OF THE RANGE

The ranch, still owned by the Moffat family, spreads across the parched fastness of San JoaquinSacramento, and Amador counties. Its original boundaries were the Mokelumne River north to the Cosumnes, and from the Sacramento River east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Brubeck says that as he tended cattle, the rhythms of the ranch fired a fascination with divisions of musical time.

"The first polyrhythms I thought about were when I was riding horseback. The gait was usually a fast walk, maybe a trot," he says, "and I would sing against that constant gait of the horse. Moving the cattle, we might drive them from Oakdale to lone, 40 miles or so. In a round-up, my dad always told me to keep in sight of the cowhands to my left and right, but they could be a mile or so away. The cattle, the horses, everything, got into a rhythm on those hot summer days, except when one of the cattle would turn back and I'd have to get it back with the herd. There was nothing to do but think, and I'd improvise melodies and rhythms."

His imagination was sparked by the sound permutations of anvils in the blacksmith shop, machinery in the hay fields and the one-lung gasoline engine that drove the pump forcing water into the stock tanks.

"That little engine was an incredible generator of rhythms. It would take a couple of hours for one of those water tanks to fill. I'd sit there in the shade of the tank listening to the engine and putting other rhythms against it."

H.P. (Pete) Brubeck, Dave's father, was a lifelong cattleman and a champi­onship rodeo roper. I recognized someone familiar when I saw a photo­graph of Mr. Brubeck on the ranch in his working outfit — Levis, shirt buttoned closely around the wrists to protect against scrapes and insect bites, five-gallon hat cocked over the right eye, the horn of a prize bull in one hand and a halter rope in the other. I was looking at my grandfather and uncles on the family ranch in Montana where I did part of my growing up; the same easy confidence in the stance, the same gaze signal­ing defiance at the ready. The face might have been painted by Charles Russell. And it has a quality that brings to mind Paul Desmond's cele­brated account of meeting and playing with Dave Brubeck for the first time and being struck by this daring pianist "with the expression of a surly Sioux."

THE QUESTION OF INDIAN BLOOD

Paul's poetic image may have reflected reality. Pete Brubeck's heritage had a lot of Germany in it, but Dave told Gene Lees in 1991 that his father, born in 1884 near the Pyramid Lake Indian reservation in Nevada not far from the California border, could be part Modoc, maybe as much as a fourth or more.

"Once in a while, my dad would make a remark that hinted at this heritage, and when I was young he took a picture of me with an Indian boy who was my age. He wrote on it, 'Which is the Indian boy?' Any time he'd mention it, my mother would deny it. And to this day, my dad's younger brother, who's over 90, says it's impossible. But another branch of the family says my grandfather was married three times, once perhaps to an Indian woman."

Dave was Pete's last hope that a son would follow him in the cattle trade. It was too late for the older brothers. They were committed to music. Howard was headed toward a career as a composer and college professor. Henry was already in Stockton playing drums with a band led by Gil Evans, who more than two decades later would become the arranging eminence of the post-war modern jazz movement. Henry later became head of music for Santa Barbara public schools. Dave was born in 1920, Howard in 1916, Henry in 1910.

Dave spent hours on horseback in the isolation of the ranch, riding fence, filling water tanks, and rounding up strays. As a teenager, playing with local bands in places like Angels Camp and Sutter Creek, his intention was always to work on the ranch, even when his mother insisted that he follow in his brothers' footsteps and go to college.

Dave's mother, Elizabeth Ivey (Bessie) Brubeck was the daughter of the man who operated the livery stable in Concord. Henry Ivey spotted Pete Brubeck around the turn of the century when the 16-year-old cowboy delivered a train carload of wild horses and a carload of cattle he had helped round up at his father's ranch near Pyramid Lake.

"The livery stable was sort of the rent-a-car of those days," Dave says, "so my Dad went to rent a saddle horse and hire some hands to help him move the stock to the new family ranch near Concord. My mother was in her early teens. Her father went home that night and told her, 'I met a real young man at the corral today.' My dad soon ran off the other suitors. When my dad finally proposed, my mom's father told her, 'Bessie, if you marry him, you'll never want for a sack of flour.'

THE READING CONUNDRUM

Bessie Brubeck was a classical pianist and a prominent piano teacher. She studied in Great Britain with the influential teacher Tobias Matthay and later with Dame Myra Hess, the legendary pianist known as the Great Lady of Music and the First Lady of the Piano. But Mrs. Brubeck's studies abroad began after she had three sons. The eldest, Henry, went to Europe with her. She came to miss terribly the two sons she had left at home. Deciding against a career as a concert pianist, she returned from London to raise her children and teach piano.

One of her students fooled her. Her youngest son's ear was so adept that he learned to play by listening. She discovered when it was too late, when he was playing well, that David could not read music, that when he stared so intently at the manuscript pages on the piano, he was faking. But it was not just his exceptional ear that led to his cover-up.

"I was born cross-eyed. I had to wear glasses before I got out of the crib. I was very cross-eyed," Brubeck told me. "You see things differently, and I think at first it wasn't clear to me how the music lined up, and I learned I could get by faking it. My mother taught all day long and I could hear the things she was teaching and could pretend that I was reading. I tried to correct it myself, but by then I was 12 or so and it was very difficult to change my habits."

Through weekly visits to the eye doctor from an early age, and through the use of corrective lenses, young Dave's eyes eventually uncrossed. As he got older, his vision improved and his trademark tortoise shell "bebop" glasses were no longer a necessity.

By the time the Brubecks moved to lone, southeast of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada MountainsDave's mother was convinced that he was going to be a cowboy, and she never gave him another lesson. Nor did the question of reading music ever come up between them.

"We never discussed it," he said. "It must have been an embarrassment to her."

Literacy in the language of music, as in the language of words, comes easiest and most naturally when the brain is young and growing and at its peak of receptiveness. Later in life, as Dave was to discover, it comes with great effort. During his teenage years on the ranch he continued to explore the harmonic and rhythmic possibilities of the popular songs of the day. By the time he was in his early teens, he was making money playing the piano, his remarkable ear carrying him through.

The little gasoline engine and the hooves of horses inspired polyrhythms. As often as he could, he rode with Pete Brubeck's top cowhand, Al Walloupe from the Miwok tribe, who sang with young Dave and, through his knowledge of Indian songs, became a lifelong friend and musical influence. But the jazz that first moved Brubeck was by pianists Fats Waller and Billy Kyle.

"The first record I ever bought was by Fats Waller, when I was 14. But I had heard the Billy Kyle trio on the radio, even before I heard Fats. The Waller record had "LET’S BE FAIR AND SQUARE IN LOVE" on one side and "THERE’S HONEY ON THE MOON TONIGHT" on the other. When you're working for a dollar a day and the record costs 50 cents, it's a big decision."

More than two decades later, Dave and his hero, Kyle, collaborated at the piano behind Louis Armstrong's vocal on Brubeck's "summer song," heard in this collection. In the mid-1930s, his playing was influenced by Kyle and Waller, but his older dance band colleagues noticed the streak of unorthodoxy that was to baffle or frustrate other musicians for a long time to come.

SCREWING UP THE SHUFFLE RHYTHM

"The band used shuffle rhythms in practically everything, just that steady shuffle rhythm that Jonah Jones had all those hits with later. The leader was a trumpet player and he loved Clyde McCoy. I'd get bored and screw that rhythm up on purpose, break it up, and get dirty looks. And har­mony; by the time I got to college at 17, I was really messing with harmony, but I didn't know how to explain it to anybody else."

He had no idea of music as a profession. He was committed to the career his father had in mind for him.

"I would never have left the ranch if my mother hadn't insisted that I go to college like my two brothers did. I didn't want to go. No way. The compro­mise was that I would be a veterinarian and come back to the ranch."

Brubeck enrolled at College of the Pacific in Stockton as a pre-medical veterinary student. He lived in a boarding house with several music students. During the progress of his education, which was saturated with science studies, he related his academic situation to theirs.

"I knew, innately, what they were struggling over musically. What I was struggling over was zoology and chemistry, which, innately, I did not know. What my brilliant mind put together was, 'as bad as this is, it would be easier in music.' So I switched over, with no intention of becoming a so-called trained musician. It was just a way of staying in school more easily, because I was a very uneven student. I was likely to get an A in one subject and an F in another."

Now he was a music major and his inability to read began to haunt him. Faking it wasn't quite so easy here, where a professor was likely to insist that he be able to describe a progression or the makeup of a chord. The legend at C.O.P. is that Brubeck and three other musicians lived in an enormous basement they called "The Bomb Shelter." The amenities were a cold water faucet, a stove for cooking, and an old upright Starr piano. In the September, 1991, JazzletterDave told Gene Lees about those days.

"WAKE UP BRUBECK"
"....Like, in ear training, I'd usually be asleep, 'cause I'd been working in some joint the night before until two in the morning. There are stories about the teacher saying, 'Well, can anybody play this progression and tell me what I've just played?' Then he'd say, 'Well, if nobody can, then wake up Brubeck.'

"In my own way, I could do it. He'd say, 'What chord is this?' and I'd say, That's the first chord in "don't worry 'bout me.'" Then he'd say, 'Well, explain that, Mr. Brubeck.' I'd go play that chord. He'd say, 'Well can't you say that's a flat ninth?' I didn't know it was a flat ninth. But that's the way I got through."
Sometimes he wasn't allowed to explain simply by playing an answer to a musical question. Finally, forced to take a keyboard class, the deceiver was exposed. The professor reported to the dean the inescapable and astounding fact that Dave Brubeck, a senior in a music conservatory, the brother of two distinguished conservatory graduates, the son of a re­spected music teacher, could not read music.

"In my final for harmony class, I got an A for ideas and an F for writing the notation down, so he gave me a C. I remember my teacher, Dr. J. Russell Bodley, telling me, 'I couldn't wait to get to your paper because I knew it was going to be the most exciting. Dave, you misspelled most of the chords, but you had the right notes down.' That was typical."

The dean informed Brubeck that he would not be allowed to graduate. But Brubeck had proved to some of the faculty that he had a brilliant aptitude for harmony and counterpoint. He had, in fact, enchanted the counterpoint teacher, who explained to the dean that Brubeck had "writ­ten" the best counterpoint of any student he'd ever had. Dr. Bodley, the ear-training and composition professor offered similar praise, and the two of them convinced the dean to let Brubeck graduate. There was, however, a condition; that Brubeck promise "never to teach and embarrass the conservatory."

He promised. He was graduated. His teaching has been by example.

Brubeck's father, who had hoped for a son to join him in cattle ranching, was disappointed when Dave turned from veterinary medicine to music. But he offered support and a fallback position.

"He understood, and he said, 'You know we started a herd of cattle that's yours.' He gave me four cows when I graduated from grammar school. He kept books on how they multiplied, kept 'em separate and said, These are Dave's,' and he told me, 'You know, if it ever gets too tough on you, you can always come home and you'll have a start in the cattle business.' That was important to me, too, because there were times when I was ready to give up; driving across the country in my Kaiser automobile, trying to keep the family together, without money to stay in a hotel, living in the worst kind of conditions. When it was impossible to keep groups on the road and I wouldn't know how we were going to get to the next town, defeat after defeat after defeat, I'd start thinking about the ranch again."

Dave's herd was maintained until Pete Brubeck's death in 1954. By then, Brubeck's musical fortunes had improved.

IOLA

Not long after his graduation from C.O.P., Brubeck went into the Army. In 1942, when he was on a three-day pass, he married lola Whitlock, a student he fell in love with at C.O.P.; "the incomparable, regal lola," Paul Desmond called her. Dave had met her after his mother insisted that at least once before he graduated he do a conventional college thing, go to a fraternity dance. Three hours after they arrived at the dance, Dave and lola decided to get married. Six children and fifty years later, lola still wears her long brown hair in braids, and she and her husband are under the same spell they cast on each other that night in Stockton.

Brubeck was in an Army band at Camp Hahn, near RiversideCalifornia. He got into Los Angeles occasionally, thinking of himself as a potential composer and arranger who happened to play piano, and eager to make an impression. Once when he was on a pass, he visited the rising young bandleader Stan Kenton at Kenton's house in the Hollywood Hills. He had written a piece called "PRAYER OF THE CONQUERED" with Kenton's band in mind. He played it on Kenton's piano.

"He asked me, 'Where did you ever hear voicings like this?' and had me take the music to the NBC radio studio where he was the bandleader for the "Bob Hope Show." The Kenton band played the chart down, but Stan found it too far out. He said, 'Bring it back in ten years. I'd like to talk to you about arranging for the band.'"
The year was 1942, and Kenton was consolidating a reputation as a forward-looking bandleader. But the 22-year-old Brubeck was apparently looking a considerable distance beyond Kenton's vision.

"I was always getting put down for what I was writing. Trumpets a half-step apart, that sort of thing. It's common now. It wasn't then. But there were always some people who liked it, always someone who would say, 'Oh, boy, I never heard chords like that.'"

THE SCHOENBERG ENCOUNTER

In another Los Angeles encounter, Brubeck, with high hopes, approached the formidable composer Arnold Schoenberg, a member of the music faculty at UCLA. Brubeck wanted to study with this pioneer of modern music who early in his career moved beyond the norms of tonality and form.

"I had one interview and one lesson," Brubeck recalls. "After I had played him something, he said, 'Why did you write this?' I told him, 'It's what I wanted to show you.' He asked me, 'But do you have a reason for every note? There has to be a reason for every note.' I told him, 'I write it because it sounds good.' He said, 'That's not reason enough; there has to be a reason.' I didn't like his approach and he didn't like mine and that was the end of it. I like much of his music, but I knew we couldn't get along."

After D-Day in 1944, the American military machine in Europe de­manded a massive injection of combat troops. Brubeck and many of the other musicians from Camp Hahn were shipped to Europe as riflemen. On his way through San Francisco, he sat in with members of the 253rd American Ground Forces Band stationed at the Presidio. One of those in the jam session was a clarinetist who had taken up alto saxophone the year before. Years later, the alto player, whose name was Paul Desmond, said he had been dazzled by Brubeck's harmonic approach. In an inter­view for a Down Beat article in September, 1960, Desmond alleged to pianist Marian McPartland doubling as journalist, that he complemented Brubeck as follows:

"Man, like Wigsville! You really grooved me with those nutty changes." He said Brubeck replied, "White man speak with forked tongue," a line that was occasionally exchanged between the two over the next three decades to the glee of Brubeck and Desmond and the mystification of nearly everyone who overheard it.

A replacement in Patton's Third Army, 140th Infantry Regiment, A Com­pany, Dave was near the front in the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 and early 1945. Twice, he found himself behind the German lines when the front moved. He was always near the action, on the verge of being sent into combat. Music saved him.

Waiting for an order to move with his outfit closer to the battle, Brubeck heard a Red Cross girl ask if anyone could play the piano for a show. He volunteered. A colonel who heard him pulled the form required to send an enlisted man into combat, and ordered Brubeck and two other musicians to put together a band to entertain the men who had returned from the front to recover from battle fatigue. The band was made up for the most part of soldiers who had been wounded, and it was, to Brubeck's knowl­edge, the first integrated military unit in World War II.

PFC-IN-CHARGE

For reasons Brubeck can't remember and says he may never have known, the group was called The Wolf Pack Band. A private first class, he had the lowest rank in the band but was ultimately assigned an 020 specialty number, bandleader, and put in charge of an outfit in which he was out­ranked by all of the members.
"Eventually they wanted to make me a warrant officer," Brubeck says, "but I would have had to live with the officers, and I didn't want to leave the band, so I kept the PFC rating and stayed where I was."

Where he was, frequently, was in trouble. The colonel, concerned that everyone qualified to fight was about to be sent to the front lines, ordered Brubeck to load the band on a couple of trucks and "take a Cook's Tour." In other words, he and the band were to get lost until the crisis passed.

"Unfortunately, we drove right into the Bulge, which wasn't the Bulge yet. We saw some guys in a clearing, eating, so we thought we'd play for them. As we were playing, a plane flew over. Since no one had seen an enemy plane for a month, no one thought anything of it. Then it came back, and we saw that it was a German plane. I said, 'Let's get the hell out of here.'

"The driver took a wrong turn, and we were going away from protection, through the enemy lines. It was dark by now, no headlights allowed, and a sentry with a camouflage flashlight waved us through a checkpoint. As we drove through, I realized it was a German soldier and a German check­point. We went up the road a way, turned around, gunned the engine, and drove by him as he waved us through again. I thought for sure there would be a tank there ready to blow us to hell.

"When we got back to a sentry point on the American lines, a soldier walked up to us carrying two hand grenades with the pins pulled, ready to use them. One of the guys in the back of the truck was yelling, 'Don't forget the password.' But even after I gave it, this guy was suspicious. I still thought he might drop the grenades into the truck. After a few tense moments, he finally believed who we were. He then explained that earlier the same night Germans wearing American uniforms and driving Ameri­can trucks had killed all of his buddies at that same sentry point."

Among The Wolf Pack's assignments was the accompaniment of a tour­ing unit of the Radio City Music Hall show which included the Rockettes. This allowed the musicians the luxury of sleeping in hotels rather than haystacks and boxcars or on the ground. But luxury seldom came. As members of an unauthorized band, they had no access to Army instru­ments. They traded cigarettes for instruments in captured German terri­tory and later in a village in Czechoslovakia known for its instrument making.

None of the Wolf Pack musicians reached anything like Brubeck's promi­nence. But Johnny Stanley, the master of ceremonies, had a postwar comedy hit record called, "IT’S IN THE BOOK." Another member, Leon Pober, was the composer of the song "PEARLY SHELLS" and many other commercial successes and gets credit for "ZEN IS WHEN," in Brubeck's 1964 album, Jazz Impressions Of Japan. (CS 9012) Dave remained with the band until he was discharged in 1946 and has stayed in touch with many of its members to this day.

At College of the Pacific, Brubeck had faced discouragement more daunt­ing than sleeplessness and the academic obstacles erected by his inability to read music; he was a jazz musician. As much as individual members of the faculty may have liked Brubeck and admired his gifts, the jazz musi­cian was a species beneath their consideration as a serious artist and Dave's unorthodox ideas about music were resisted and discouraged by some of the faculty and many of the students. Given his single-minded-ness and cowboy stubbornness, the opposition may have spurred Brubeck in his determination. Ironically, in developing his jazz, Brubeck was dedi­cated to experimentation with tonality, harmony, and polyrhythms not unlike qualities in the music of Bartok, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Milhaud, and other pioneers of contemporary "classical" music.

WITH MILHAUD AT MILLS

That made the next stop in his career a considerably more congenial affair. Discharged by the Army in 1946, Brubeck rejoined the wife he had not seen in two years. Under the GI Bill that made higher education possible for millions of veterans, he entered Mills College in Oakland to study under Darius Milhaud. Pete Rugolo and Dave's brother, Howard, were Milhaud's first male graduate students at this women's college. Howard served for many years as Milhaud's assistant at Mills. The composer of "ALLEGRO BLUES," Howard Brubeck is retired as chairman of the music department at Palomar College in southern California. Rugolo went on to become one of Hollywood's busiest composers, contributing heavily to Stan Kenton's book during the band's peak of success.

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was a French composer of staggering crea­tivity and output. He wrote at least 450 works with opus numbers. Among them were full-scale operas, choral works, orchestral composi­tions, 18 string quartets, chamber music of every description, and piano pieces. A member of the celebrated group of composers known as The Six that included Francis Poulenc and Arthur Honneger, he was very aware of Igor Stravinsky and Charles Koechlin and jazz.

The result was a style incorporating diatonicism, metric complexity, synco­pation, and daring uses of bitonality. Listeners interested in finding com­mon ground between Milhaud and Brubeck may hear it most clearly in Milhaud piano pieces. Those interested in how Brubeck wrote the lessons of the modern masters into his own compositions may refer to his octet pieces "PLAYLAND-AT-THE-BEACH" and "RONDO" (Fantasy OJCCD 101) also under the spell of the Stravinsky of the "EBONY CONCERTO" period.

SOMEPLACE TO GO

"At my lessons with Milhaud," Brubeck says, "he would play through my compositions and make suggestions. One piece was a sonata. I thought the second theme was fine. But he said, Put a flat in front of every note in that theme.' I did, and it was transformed, so that when the piece returned to the first theme there was a modulation.

"He always said that modulation was the greatest thing in music, that it could lift your spirit... or bring it down. Then he said something I've never forgotten: The reason I don't like 12-tone music is that you're never someplace. Therefore, you can never go someplace.'

"Beethoven loved modulation. So did Brahms. They're always taking us to a new place."

When he arrived at Mills, Dave thought of himself as more a composer than a pianist. He still couldn't read well, but Milhaud immediately saw Brubeck's potential and guided the 26-year-old's studies in counterpoint, theory, polyrhythms, and polytonality. He insisted that Dave learn com­positional theory and, once satisfied that he had, urged Brubeck to put it into practice. That didn't take much urging. At Milhaud's suggestion he and some of the other Milhaud students put together a band so they could hear what they were writing.

THE BIRTH OF THE OCTET

The band born in Milhaud's classroom was initially called "The 8." It became the Dave Brubeck Octet, a group that worked on some of the same problems confronted later in the decade in some of the same ways by nine New York musicians whose creative leader was Gil Evans, the former Stockton bandleader of Brubeck's brother Henry. Under Miles Davis' name, the New Yorkers recorded what came to be known as The Birth Of The Cool. "CURTAIN THEME," sometimes called "OPENING THEME, " was written for the octet by Brubeck in 1946 (three years before The Birth Of The Cool sessions).

"Milhaud liked our music," Brubeck says. "He loved Dave Van Kriedt's "FUGUE ON BOP THEMES." He said it was a wonderful example of a real fugue, written in a jazz style. He was as strict as could be about counterpoint. You had to follow his rules, which were Bach's rules. Kriedt just had a natural gift for writing fugues. How else could this young jazz player absorb that so fast and translate it into the jazz idiom? It's a classic piece."

Asked in 1992 about when he had finally learned to read, Brubeck said, "next year." Asked what it was like to write music when he was not a proficient reader, he said, "like sweating blood, but I'm getting better."

Maybe because of the eye problem, I was a hard person to train, whether it was shooting a rifle, playing sports, or playing the piano. I always had to do everything my own way. The way I learned to read music was by writing music. I struggled with that for years. Milhaud told me, 'You're never going to have conventional classical training, but you will do it on your own. I know you're going to be a composer.' So I got to where I could put it down and read my own stuff. By now I'm to the point where I can write music on airplanes."

Most of the members of the octet were studying with Milhaud: Brubeck, Bill Smith, Dave Van Kriedt, Jack Weeks, and Dick Collins. Collins, a superb trumpet soloist, along with Van Kriedt and Weeks, had also stud­ied with Milhaud in Paris. Weeks, a pianist and arranger, who was the son of the popular San Francisco bandleader Anson Weeks, plays bass and trombone on some of the octet recordings and contributed to the octet's repertoire, among other pieces, a demonic short arrangement of "THE PRISONER’S SONG." From the Bay Area jazz community came Cal Tjader, Bob Collins, Ron Crotty, Paul Desmond and Bob Cummings, the latter two sharing alto saxophone duties. Desmond and Tjader were students at San Francisco State College, where Desmond was majoring in creative writing and Tjader in music education.

There are interesting parallels between the Brubeck and Davis bands. Both were experimental, although in pieces such as "CURTAIN MUSIC" and "THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT," the Brubeck Octet demonstrated more audacity with its polytonality and polyrhythms. Both bands were ahead of their time. Both had few paying jobs. On records released in the same year, both sound fresh and undated more than 40 years later, still models for inventive uses of textures, counterpoint, moving harmonies and time signa­tures. The time signature for "CURTAIN MUSIC" is in 6. Bill Smith used 7/4 in "schizophrenic scherzo" and experimented with overlapping rhythms (5 against 4, etc) throughout "WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE." Brubeck's adventures in time began long before "BLUE RONDO A LA TURK" and "TAKE FIVE."

There are similarities in phrasings of melody lines and in voicings, right down to the ways in which the alto leads of Paul Desmond and Lee Konitz were employed in the two bands. Classical influences and currents of musical thought in post-war jazz were informing composers and ar­rangers working 3,000 miles apart. Gerry Mulligan, along with Evans and John Lewis, a key arranger for the Davis band, went on to form his own quartet, which became, like Brubeck's, one of the most successful of the 1950s. More than 20 years later, Brubeck and Mulligan became collaborators.

THE THREE Ds

In 1947, the year lola gave birth to their first son, Darius, Brubeck had managed to find work as a pianist while he was studying at Mills with Milhaud. He had a gig at the Geary Cellar in San Francisco in a group called The Three Ds, led by tenor saxophonist Daryl Cutler and including a bassist named Don Ratto who was later replaced by Norman Bates. "We used to call him Dorman Bates," Brubeck says. The singer was Frances Lynn. Paul Desmond frequently sat in. Desmond told me years later that the first time he and Brubeck played together at the Geary Cellar, the empathy was total and the counterpoint that became the centerpiece of their collaborations happened that night without planning or discussion.

In 1960, Desmond told Marian McPartland, "If you think Dave plays far out now, you should have heard him then. He made Cecil Taylor sound like Lester Lanin." Unless you want to include their brief encounter during the war, it was the beginning of one of the tightest, and longest, musical partnerships between any two jazz musicians. Nonetheless, the relationship nearly ended before it had a chance to get off the ground.

Having been offered a job as leader, Desmond in 1949 hired Cutler's band out from under him for an engagement in Palo Alto at the Band Box, a club Brubeck described to Gene Lees as "a Quonset Hut kind of place." Brubeck enjoyed playing with Desmond and felt he had no choice but to join Paul's band, even though Cutler had been paying him $100 a week and Desmond was paying $42. The challenges of working with Desmond at the Band Box came in several forms other than financial. One of them was getting to the job, 30 miles away.

"Paul considered himself a terrific driver," Brubeck once told me. "He had calculated that the traffic lights on a stretch of road down the peninsula to Palo Alto were timed for 45 miles an hour. Using perfect logic, he figured out that if you could make all the lights at 45, you could make them at 90 and leave later for the gig. Every time we drove down there, I thought there was a good chance I was going to die."

AT THE BAND BOX

Having arrived alive, however, the two further developed the symbiosis that had sprung up at the Geary Cellar through ESP, fate or good luck. Brubeck remembers the music during the three weeks of the Band Box engagement with the same expressions of awe and amazement that Des­mond related in the Down Beat interview.

"I have a memory of several nights that seemed fantastic, and I don't feel that way too often," Desmond told Marian. "I'd give anything for a tape of one of those nights now, just to see what was really going on.

"I know we were playing a lot of counterpoint on almost every tune, and the general level was a lot more loud, emotional, and unsubtle then. I was always screaming away at the top of the horn, and Dave would be constructing something behind me in three keys. Sometimes I had to plead with him to play something more simple behind me.

"It seemed pretty wild at the time; it was one of those few jobs where you really hated to stop — we'd keep playing on the theme until they practi­cally threw us off the stand.

"Anyway, that's where the empathy between Dave and me began, and it's survived a remarkable amount of pulling and pushing in the 11 years or so since."

But it nearly failed to survive the Band Box episode and its aftermath. For Brubeck, one of the perils of Paul was Desmond's youthful self-absorp­tion, which matched and sometimes overrode his charm. While Dave was scuffling on the Band Box pay under Desmond's leadership, Paul got a job at the Feather River Inn, northeast of San Francisco in the peaceful countryside above Sacramento, and stole the band. He took Bates and Frances Lynn with him, hired another pianist and refused to let Brubeck take over the job at the Band Box, insisting that he would come back to it at the end of the three-months' run at Feather River. He didn't. In early 1950, he took a chair in the saxophone section of Jack Fina's band and eventually one in Alvino Rey's.

With Desmond on the road playing "SPAGHETTI RAG" with Fina, Bru­beck was faced with finding a way to support his family. Unable to get the Band Box job, he finally landed a gig at a resort club called the Silver Log Tavern at Clear Lake, north of Santa Rosa. The quartet was led by the Oakland trumpet player Rudy Salvini. The deal was scale plus a place to stay. The "place" was a corrugated tin enclosure. Its only opening was a door. In the daytime it was too hot to occupy. At night, Dave and lola made it cool enough for themselves and their two young children by directing the breeze from a fan through wet sacks.

It was about this time, Brubeck recalls, that he told his wife, "I never want to see Paul Desmond again."

The octet was Brubeck's primary passion, but it was doomed by its size and the adventurous character of its music to a life of rehearsals. In an era that loved "OLD BUTTERMILK SKY," "THE ANNIVERSARY SONG," "ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH" and "A, YOU’RE ADORABLE," music informed by the examples of Milhaud and Stravinsky did not get the attention of the masses. Or, if there was a chance that it might have, there was none that it would get past the people who booked clubs and concerts.”

Part 2

On December 6, 2010Dave Brubeck will celebrate his 90th birthday. The editorial staff wanted to do something special to commemorate it, so we turned to Doug Ramsey, who has graciously consented to have his essay - DAVE BRUBECK: A LIFE IN AMERICAN MUSIC - posted on JazzProfiles.

It doesn’t get any more special than that.

If you are looking for more of Doug’s Jazz writings, his current musings can be found  daily on his blog – Riffitides.

And should you wish to read his essay in its original form, you can find it as part of the accompanying booklet to the Columbia/Sony Records boxed set Dave Brubeck: Time Signatures A Career Retrospective.

Last, but not least, Doug is also the author of  Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

© -Doug Ramsey. Reprinted with the permission of the author; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

ENTER JIMMY LYONS

Dave remembers the octet as having played four paying concerts: at Mills College in 1946, in 1947 opening for the great Woody Herman Herd in San Francisco, and in 1948 at Dave's alma mater for the College of the Pacific chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national music frater­nity. Then, in 1949, they gave a concert of their newest compositions at the Marines Memorial Auditorium in San Francisco. That was a turn­ing point.

The Marines Memorial concert was attended by Jimmy Lyons, a young disc jockey with open ears. Lyons' enthusiasm persuaded his bosses at KNBC to launch a weekly program called "Lyons Busy," featuring Bru-beck and a trio drawn from the octet. Ron Crotty was the bassist, Cal Tjader was the drummer, doubling occasionally on vibraharp. In some pieces, Tjader's quick reflexes and athletic ability were needed when he was called on to switch from vibes to drums in the split second between choruses.
In 1950, Down Beat, evidently on the strength of Brubeck's first trio recordings and the attention paid his music by critics like Barry Ulanov and Ralph J. Gleason, published a piece co-authored by Dave and lola. In it, Brubeck recommended that jazzmen explore the possibilities contained in the polytonal examples of Bartok and other classical composers. But he went on to make it clear that in the matter of spontaneous creation, he felt that improvisation was the heart of jazz: "I will not go so far as to say jazz ceases to be jazz once it is written. But I do say that improvisation is the criterion by which all jazz, written or unwritten, is judged. The degree of its 'goodness' is based on its proximity to improvisation."

Although the quartet with Desmond is what most people think of when they hear the name Brubeck, the music in this collection, from the vaults of five companies, includes important recordings made before the quartet was formed in 1951 and after it was disbanded at the end of 1967. "INDIANA" was one of four trio performances the Brubeck Trio recorded in September of 1949 for Coronet, a San Francisco label established by the traditional trombonist Jack Sheedy. The two 78-rpm records were popular enough that when Coronet went out of business not long after, Brubeck (with the backing of Max and Sol Weiss) bought the masters of "INDIANA," "LAURA," "TEA FOR TWO" and "BLUE MOON." He paid $350. In those days, that was real money, especially for a young family man who wasn't working much. It was enough, in any case, to lay a foundation.

The brothers Weiss operated the Circle Record Company, a pressing plant that manufactured the Coronet 78s. On the strength of the Brubeck records they started a company that would originate, not merely press, jazz records. Its first releases were reissues of the Brubeck Trio 78s. With the whimsy and refusal to take itself seriously that overlay everything the company did as long as they ran it, the Weisses named it after a science fiction magazine, Fantasy. Many of their LPs were pressed not on conventional black vinyl but in startling chemical shades of red, green, and purple.
The company was home base for Brubeck in the crucial early years of the trio and quartet, and to Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi, both of whom built successful careers on the popularity of their Fantasy recordings. It also helped launch Lenny Bruce, whose irreverence and attacks on con­ventional wisdom and attitudes sounded a lot like many of the conversa­tions that took place on an average afternoon at the headquarters of Fantasy. Years later, Max and Sol sold Fantasy and their other label, Galaxy, to an employee, Saul Zaentz, who went on to acquire Prestige, Milestone, Riverside, Contemporary, and other labels, produce motion pictures, and build an entertainment empire.

Nothing so grand seemed in the offing at the little company tucked away in jumbled rooms below Market Street, at first in an alley called Treat Street and later in another named Natoma. Brubeck and the Weisses recorded more trio sides. Fantasy released recordings made by the Bru­beck Octet, but only after the trio had proved that Brubeck could sell records, which had begun to move well not only in the Bay Area but in Portland and Seattle. From among the first records, "BLUE MOON" was chosen best of the month by Metronome magazine. That started a series of awards to Brubeck that has never ended. Three of the trio's recordings, including "UNDECIDED," were on the best-of-the-year list in Jazz 1951, Metronome's yearbook.

BAY AREA SUCCESS

Now Jimmy Lyons, the enthusiastic disc jockey, had more good news for Brubeck. He had landed the trio a job at the Burma Lounge, a popular club near Lake Merritt, virtually in the center of Oakland. After a month of baking, Dave, lola, and their two sons said goodbye to the corrugated oven at Clear Lake. The "Lyons Busy" program, riding on the powerful signal of KNBC, sent the live music of Brubeck, Tjader, and Crotty the length of the West Coast and far out into the Pacific, where sailors picked it up on shipboard radios. When the sailors had liberty in San Francisco, every Navy man's favorite port, they sought out the trio at the Burma Lounge, then later across the bay at the Blackhawk in San Francisco, which became Brubeck's virtual headquarters.
As much as six months out of every year, the trio, and later the quartet, played at the Blackhawk, a monument to dimness, dustiness, and the proposition that in a sympathetic setting the listener can become a part of the creative process. His Blackhawk experience must have had a lot to do with the development of Brubeck's often-quoted observation that the success of the quartet was due in large part to the participation of its fifth member, the audience.

"I've worked and slaved to keep this place a sewer," Guido Caccienti used to say of his long, narrow temple of gloom. Guido, his partner Johnny Noga, and their wives, Elynore and Helen, kept the prices reasonable and kept musicians and audiences relaxed with their good-humored tough­ness. It wasn't unusual for a line of customers to wait more or less patiently to pay their dollar cover charges at the door while Elynore and Helen exchanged gossip or the latest Mort Sahl line.
Musicians loved to play the Blackhawk, which the Dave Brubeck Trio helped establish as a jazz club. Count Basic had to love it, to be willing to squeeze 16 instrumentalists and Joe Williams onto a bandstand roughly twice the size of a cocktail table. It was one of Miles Davis' favorite places to play, and Thelonious Monk's, and Shelly Manne's, and the Modern Jazz Quartet's. And, of course, Cal Tjader's and Vince Guaraldi's. On one occasion in the early '50s, when their quartets were working regularly and gaining in popularity, Brubeck's path crossed Gerry Mulligan's, liter­ally; when his group moved south from the Blackhawk to The Haig in Los Angeles, Mulligan's quartet moved north from The Haig to the Blackhawk.

Dave recalled that "It usually took me half an hour to find a parking place in this part of town. Paul would pull up in his car at the last minute and saunter in. Once at intermission I asked him, 'How do you find a parking space?' He said, 'Come across the street and I'll show you.' He was parked in a yellow no-parking zone. I said, 'See what that says, sfpd? San Francisco Police Department?' 'Yeah,' he said, 'Safe for Paul Desmond.'"

Where the Blackhawk once stood at Turk and Hyde in the Tenderloin, no building now stands. The corner is a parking lot, without so much as a plaque to commemorate one of San Francisco's cultural treasures, one of perhaps a half-dozen jazz clubs across the country that may not have made anyone rich, but, through their owners' love of the art and the artists, made a difference in the development of the music.

DESMOND REDUX

Dave had left standing instructions with lola that if Paul Desmond ever showed up, she should not let him in the house. But one day, the Jack Fina experience behind him, Desmond came to the door. In New York, he had heard a recording of the Dave Brubeck Trio on a jazz radio station. lola let him in. Dave was on the back porch pinning diapers to the clothes line.

lola was susceptible to Paul's charm from the first time she met him. She told Gene Lees 40 years later that Desmond looked so forlorn, she went out back and told her husband, "You just have to see him." Brubeck did and, lola said, "...he was full of promises to Dave. He said, 'If you'll just let me play with you, I'll baby-sit, I'll wash your car.'"
Brubeck was unable to keep up his resistance. The partnership was back on, at least in spirit. But making the trio a quartet was impossible finan­cially because club managers discouraged anything that might jeopardize the growing success of the trio. Desmond sat in, but the businessmen interested in the modest fortunes of the group were not particularly happy when he did.

Nonetheless, when the trio was booked into Los Angeles, Desmond went along to sit in at The Haig and later at Zardi's. Dave's family also went to L.A. The Brubecks had been living in an apartment in San Francisco and now rented a tiny cottage on the beach at Santa Monica. They had put money down on a house near San Francisco. When the work in Los Angeles ended and it came time to close on the house, Dave and lola put Darius and Michael in the car and drove all night to keep the appoint­ment. Brubeck remembers having lola periodically slap him to keep him awake during the 400-mile drive.

They arrived on time, to discover that the deal on the house had fallen apart. Their down payment money was tied up in escrow. Most of their belongings were in storage. They had no place to live. So when a booking materialized at the Zebra Lounge in Honolulu, Brubeck took the trio, the wife, and the kids to Hawaii. Stone broke, living in cramped quarters, eating food from cans that had been dented and sold at reduced prices, the Brubecks' fortunes were at a low ebb.

They got lower.

The beaches of Honolulu provided sunshine, water, free recreation, and distractions from poverty. To Dave, lola and the boys, the Tjaders, bassist Jack Weeks, and Dave Van Kriedt, afternoons on the beach were relief from ungenteel poverty. Weeks had replaced Ron Crotty in the trio and Van Kriedt was in Honolulu playing a separate job. They were all together one afternoon when Dave, diving through waves, hit a sand bar and wrenched his neck with so much force that an ambulance driver, noting the angle of the head, thought the injury was fatal.

"I heard him calling ahead on his two-way radio, telling them that he was bringing in a DOA; dead on arrival. I thought he was right," Brubeck says. "I was going in and out of consciousness."

The first hospital he was taken to rejected the patient for inability to pay. When it was established that he had been in the service, arrangements were made for him to be admitted to Tripler, a Veterans Administration hospital. Late that night, lola, who had seen Dave being taken away, got a call informing her that her husband was probably not going to be paralyzed, as doctors had at first feared, that, in fact, he was showing improvement.

Nonetheless, the damage to vertebrae and nerves required him to be in traction for three weeks, ending the job at the Zebra Lounge and putting the Dave Brubeck Trio out of business. Tjader and Weeks went home and formed a new group. Nearly 40 years later, Brubeck still feels pain in his back, neck, and fingers; the legacy of his accident in the Hawaiian surf and a reminder that the outcome could have been infinitely worse.

In traction, on his back painfully scribbling a note to Desmond, Dave wrote, "Maybe now we can start the quartet." Desmond saved the note all his life.

AT LAST, THE QUARTET
Out of the hospital and back in San FranciscoDave convalesced, then finally got together with Desmond in early 1951 and formed the first Dave Brubeck Quartet. Desmond had kept eating by taking a job in the reed section of the band led by Alvino Rey, who was several years beyond and several pegs below his success in the 1940s with an admired show band. By now, his leadership attempt happily behind him, Desmond had no desire to be anything but a sideman and leave the worrying to someone else. The inclination was so strong that it extended to his business rela­tionship with Brubeck. Throughout all but the earliest years of their career together, they never had a signed contract.

"Paul and I never had an argument about money," Brubeck told Gene Lees. "He never looked at the books. He never asked the attorney to see anything. He said, 'Whatever you say is right.'"

When Paul died, by terms of his will, his share of royalties was left to the American Red Cross, which still receives proceeds of the group's record­ings, and royalties from Desmond's universally popular composition "TAKE FIVE."

The trio had been a success, but the change to a quartet meant a rebuilding challenge. Fred Dutton and Herb Barman were the initial bassist and drummer, with Wyatt "Bull" Ruther or Norm Bates playing bass and Lloyd Davis or Joe Dodge on drums as the band evolved. After the trio dissolved, Cal Tjader had gone on to work with Alvino Rey, then formed his own band before joining George Shearing in 1953. Ron Crotty was back with Brubeck for much of 1953 and 1954.
The group worked in the Bay Area, mostly at the Blackhawk, with occasional forays into southern California or the Northwest. But before the end of 1951, they began to gain attention. The band found itself in demand in clubs around the country. Performances of the spirit, fresh­ness, and intricacy of "LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING" (in this collec­tion), struck a chord (altered, augmented, or diminished; rarely orthodox) with listeners.

BRUBECK TIME

The improvement in fortunes extended to domesticity. There was a new real estate transaction, and this time it did not collapse. By the middle of 1954, a house in the Oakland Hills contained six Brubecks, Christopher having made his appearance in 1952 and Catherine in 1953. Dave liked it there. He liked it so much that even though national success was in the air, he was on the verge of ignoring it in favor of spending the rest of his career gigging around the Bay Area. There were trips east, but as late as 1954 Brubeck was reluctant to commit himself to the road life that would be required to achieve and maintain major stardom.

In 1954, Brubeck received a boost so unlikely for a jazz musician that the mere thought of it might send him into gales of cynical laughter. time magazine made him the subject of its main article in the November 8, 1954, issue, with an Artzybasheff cover painting of Dave and a caption paraphrasing his boyhood piano idol, Fats Waller: "The joints are really flipping." In the mid-50s, before the pervasive hype of television diluted the impact of every print medium, a cover story in time was a national event. It brought massive attention to the subject.
By then, he and Fantasy had agreed to an amicable separation and Dave had signed an agreement with Columbia Records. But in the overlapping commitments to the two companies, there were to be three more Brubeck albums for Fantasy: in 1957 one of solo piano, and another reuniting the quartet with tenor saxophonist and composer Dave Van Kriedt, Brubeck's boon companion from the Mills College and octet days. In 1961, long after Brubeck had become, with Miles Davis, one of Columbia's two major jazz artists, he recorded a quartet album for Fantasy with clarinetist Bill Smith, another octet alumnus, replacing Desmond.

THAT'S HOW IT WAS, MOVING EAST

In 1959, while Brubeck vacillated over whether to aim for a big career, his attorney, James R. Bancroft, asked him, in effect, whether he was inter­ested in getting out of debt and being able to put his children through college. The family was more than broke; Dave recently had paid off a loan to cover back taxes. Bancroft persuaded Brubeck to rent the Oak­land house, go on the road for a year and move his family to the East Coast, near the sources of most of the potential work in clubs and at the colleges where the band had become increasingly popular. In compari­son with the East, there wasn't nearly as much work for jazz musicians out West in those days. He could always move back to the house in the hills above the bay.

A Columbia Records executive, Irving Townsend, was about to take over the label's jazz operations on the West Coast and offered to let Brubeck rent his house in WiltonConnecticutDave and lola took a deep breath and made the move.

The house, one of a dozen in a colony owned by a woman who liked to rent to artists and writers, was in the woods. It had openness, light, and lots of room. The Brubecks liked living there, and Dave enjoyed being able to spend time with his family rather than chewing it up traveling back and forth from coast to coast. Eventually, they decided to sell the house in the Oakland Hills and build their own place in Wilton, an establishment immediately christened by Desmond "The Wilton Hilton." Visitors re­member a piano in every room, including the kitchen. In 1992, they still live there. From its hill, the house looks down and across a sweep of the property's 20 acres of meadow, streams, and woodland.
Brubeck's career had begun to show that it had the potential for steady, respectable growth. Now it took off. His record sales leaped, not only the Columbia recordings with Desmond, Bob Bates, and Joe Dodge, but the ones on Fantasy as well.

Paul gave up his flat in San Francisco and took a spacious top-floor apartment in a building at 55th Street and 6th Avenue in New York; "right at ground zero," he said. He lived there the rest of his life, ten stories up from his favorite restaurant, the French Shack, and within easy striking distance of clubs, concert halls, book stores, record shops, and Fruits of the Aegean, a Greek seafood place that was another of his preferred dining spots. The apartment was just around the corner from the Half Note after it moved to midtown, making it easy for Desmond when he worked there in the 1970s to "fall out of bed and into the club."

Desmond's importance to the success of the quartet is unquestioned, especially by Brubeck. Both of them told me on several occasions that even the stunning moments of contrapuntal improvisation in the best of their Fantasy and Columbia recordings did not approach the peak of what Desmond called their "inspired madness" at the Band Box and later when he sat in with the trio. There's a hint of it in the 1952 Storyville album that for the next 25 years remained Paul's favorite, more than a hint in the 32 bars of counterpoint in the live broadcast of "LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING" from 1951, and an intense dose of it as Dave supplies his partner harmonic direction and rhythmic accents in "LE SOUK," 1954, one of Desmond's greatest flights of invention.
That accompaniment is the work of a man in profound concentration and support, deep in the interaction of emotions and intellects that constitutes jazz improvisation. It epitomizes and symbolizes the selflessness and interdependence that in its finest moments make jazz an act of coopera­tive creation without parallel in the performing arts. The frequency of those moments in the Brubeck group is what led bassist Eugene Wright to tell a fellow musician who came backstage one night to question Wright's presence in an otherwise white band, "Look, man, there's a lot of love in this group."

The power and weight of many of Brubeck's solos have led his critics to charge him with the sin of heavy-handedness, excessive romanticism, bombast. Once in the 1960s when we were discussing jazz criticism, an activity he regards with alternate amusement and frustration, he said, "The word bombast keeps coming up, as if it were some trap I keep falling into. Damn it, when I'm bombastic I have my reasons; I want to be bombastic. Take it or leave it."

THE ACCOMPANIST

Many critics, full of admiration for Desmond, wondered how he could put up with what they considered the insensitivity of Brubeck's piano play­ing. They did not hear or could not hear what led Desmond, in his most serious moments of discussing his friend, into effusions of praise for the attentiveness, delicacy, and suggestiveness of Brubeck's accompaniments.

Ignoring the success of the early trio, it was often alleged that without Desmond, Brubeck would never have made it. In that invaluable interview with Marian McPartland, Paul responded, plainly:
"I never would have made it without Dave. He's amazing harmonically, and he can be a fantastic accompanist. You can play the wrongest note possible in any chord, and he can make it sound like the only right one.

"I still feel more kinship musically with Dave than with anyone else, although it may not always be evident. But when he's at his best, it's really something to hear. A lot of people don't know this, because in addition to the kind of fluctuating level of performance that most jazz musicians give, Dave has a real aversion to working things out, and a tendency to take the things he can do for granted and most of his time trying to do other things. This is okay for people who have heard him play at his best, but sometimes mystifying to those who haven't.

"However, once in a while somebody who had no use for Dave previously comes in and catches a really good set and leaves looking kind of dazed."

In the quartet, Brubeck's taste for a little bombast extended to the exuber­ances of drummers. In a few places on the celebrated Jazz Goes To College album he can be heard encouraging the bass drum detonations inserted into his solos by Joe Dodge. "Yeah, Joe," he exclaims, whereupon Dodge launches another little mortar attack.
Desmond's idea of appropriate drumming was more in line with that of one of his heroes, Lester Young. Young had been conditioned in his Count Basic days to the impeccable ball-bearing smoothness of Jo Jones and he spent much of the rest of his career discouraging the enthusiasms and paradiddle fills of those he sometimes called "the bebop kiddies."

"Just a little tinky-boom," Pres used to instruct his percussionists. "Don't drop those bombs back there." It's no wonder that Desmond loved to play with Connie Kay, the former Lester Young drummer who took his sub­tlety and mastery of time to new levels with the Modern Jazz Quartet.

On the other hand, and both feet, there was Joe Dodge, succeeded by Joe Morello. Dodge, an old San Francisco hand, was a bear of a man, a swinger capable of using wire brushes to drive the time unobtrusively but whose temperament had something in common with that of a bombar­dier. Desmond was fond of Dodge's playing and arranged a truce under which Dodge would keep things down to, at maximum, a medium roar when Paul was soloing.

Part 3


As previously mentioned in the August 6, 2009 JazzProfiles feature on Joe Dodgethe drummer in Dave Brubeck’s quartet from roughly 1954-56, I lived and worked in San Francisco for most of the decade of the 1990s.

While there, I was employed in the reinsurance division of a large insurance brokerage and, given the scale of revenues involved in such risk transfer activities, I was often in the company of some of the city’s fairly influential business leaders, one of whom was my boss.

On a particularly lovely, early Spring day, as he was on his way out of the office, said “chief” mentioned that he wanted to see me following a luncheon he was attending at the San Francisco Business Arts Council.

When I joined him later as requested, the program for the luncheon was sitting on the chair in front of his desk.  I glanced at it and it said that, on that day, the San Francisco Business Arts Council had presented Dave Brubeck with the Cyril Magnin Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

Dave Brubeck was in town!

Knowing that Dave was always in demand for performances, especially in the Bay Area where he took the first big steps in establishing his career in Jazz, I figured that he had probably linked the award luncheon to a gig somewhere; but where?

I also guessed that I was holding the answer to this question in my own hands, so when the meeting was over, I asked the Big Guy if I could borrow the luncheon program to which he of course said “Yes.”

When I got back to my own office and read through the awards luncheon agenda, sure enough, there it was: Dave was performing that evening, April 11, 1997 in BerkeleyCA and the following night in San Francisco at the Calvary Presbyterian Church on Fillmore [about a dozen or so blocks from my flat].

Fortunately, even at this late date, I was able to secure a seat to the April 12th concert the program for which you see posted below.
The following evening, I ate an early dinner at a family-owned restaurant [too few of these are now left in the city] in the upper Fillmore District where I was able to park my car and walk to the church.

I had taken along my copy of John Reeves’ excellent photographic essay – Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz – in hopes of getting the portrait of Dave which you see at the beginning of Part 3 autographed.

Instead, I had the good fortune to meet Iola Brubeck, who not only was kind enough to give me her autograph, which you can see just below John Reeves’ photograph of Dave, but also do me the honor of sitting next to me and chatting amiably until the performance began.

Iola asked me how I came to know Dave’s music and I shared with her a shortened version of the explanation contained in the March 10, 2008 JazzProfiles feature – Dave Brubeck: Seeing Out A Bit.

That night, my head was so full of the sounds of the wonderful music Dave and others played that evening, as well as, thoughts about my fortuitous meeting with Iola, that I didn’t think to ask Dave for his autograph after the performance.  Instead I walked all the way home in such a state of euphoria that I forgot my car in the neighborhood restaurant’s parking lot!
Somewhat ironically, because of its sale and my resultant relocation to SeattleWA.the same San Francisco brokerage that inadvertently brought about my attendance at the April 1997 Brubeck concert and my chance meeting with Iola was also responsible for my first meeting with Doug Ramsey, which took place at Seattle’s Jazz Alley in August 1999.

We’ve stayed in touch since then and among his many kindnesses is permission to post on JazzProfiles his magnificent essay on DAVE BRUBECK: A LIFE IN AMERICAN MUSIC, which now concludes with Part 3.

More of Doug’s Jazz writings can be found daily on his blog – Riffitides.

His essay in its original form, can be found as part of the accompanying booklet to the Columbia/Sony Records boxed set Dave Brubeck: Time Signatures A Career Retrospective.


© -Doug Ramsey. Reprinted with the permission of the author; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

THE ADVENT OF JOE MORELLO


"When [Joe] Dodge returned to San Francisco, Morello left Marian McPartland to join Brubeck. Even though he was hired at Desmond's recommenda­tion, the truce seemed likely to be supplanted by some other condition. Open warfare comes to mind.

"Joe Dodge told me he had to leave the group and go back home," Brubeck recalls. "Paul said we should hire Joe Morello. He said Morello was a fantastic drummer who always played softly, with brushes. I went over to hear him with Marian and was knocked out."

Morello says he remembers Brubeck and Desmond coming into the Hick­ory House in New York City several times to listen to the McPartland trio.

"I had been planning on leaving Marian's group anyway," Morello recalls. "There was an audition and an offer from Tommy Dorsey, but his manager got cute with money and while that was on hold, Dave called and asked if I would be interested in joining his group."

Morello did not jump at the opportunity.

"I met him at the Park Sheraton in New York, where he was staying. I told him the times I'd heard his band at Birdland, the spotlight was on him and Paul, and the bass player and drummer were out to lunch in the back­ground somewhere. I told him I wanted to play, wanted to improve myself. He said, 'Well, I'll feature you.'"

The Brubeck group left on a tour, with Joe Dodge still on drums. When the quartet returned near the end of 1955. Morello says he told Dave, "Let's try it. Maybe you won't like my playing and I won't like the group. There's no use signing anything until we're really sure." In lieu of a contract, they exchanged telegrams confirming their intentions.

"Two days later," Morello says, "I got a call from Tommy Dorsey's man­ager. He said, 'You got the job. Tommy's gonna give you the money.' I told him it was too late, I'd just signed with Brubeck. 'Oh, you don't want to play in Birdland all your life,' he said. 'Look what we did for Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson.' I told him, 'You didn't do anything for Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. Look what they did for your band.'"

Brubeck sent Morello some of the quartet's records so he could hear the pieces they would play on his first appearance with the band, a television show in Chicago. They included "I’M IN A DANCING MOOD," "THE TROLLEY SONG" and "TWO-PART CONTENTION," "very basic things with basic tempo changes," Morello says. He flew to Chicago and went to the studio for a rehearsal. But Brubeck's plane was delayed and Dave got there barely in time to do the TV program. Those were the days before videotape. The performance was live and, in the quartet's case, unre­hearsed. Morello's debut with the band was flawless.

"When it was over, Dave said to the guys, 'Joe played these things like he wrote 'em.' But, really, they were very simple. So it went fine, and then we went into the Blue Note for a week."

The first night at the club, Brubeck had Morello use sticks as well as brushes and gave him a short solo. Joe says the solo got "a little standing ovation" and that Desmond left the stand for the dressing room, where he turned to face Brubeck and deliver an ultimatum: "Morello goes or I go."

"Joe could do things I'd never heard anybody else do," Brubeck says. "I wanted to feature him. Paul objected. He wanted a guy who played 'time' and was unobtrusive. I discovered that Joe's time concept was like mine, and I wanted to move in that direction."

Brubeck had begun his time experimentation in 1946 with the octet. Cal Tjader was a drummer with a natural aptitude for time flexibility, as he demonstrated on the octet's "CURTAIN MUSIC" and with the trio in "SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN," another venture into the mysteries of six-beat bars. "Cal was the most natural musician I've ever heard, one of the very best drummers," Dave says, "and the first night he brought vibes to the job, it was as if he'd been playing them all his life." Brubeck's swimming accident ended his and Tjader's extension of jazz time signatures, and now Morello represented a chance to revive it.

Morello was not a famous drummer when he joined the Brubeck Quartet. He was a respected one, particularly among other drummers, for his speed, control, flexibility, and technique. It was frequently said that only the formidable Buddy Rich had more technique ('"chops," in the argot of the trade) than Morello. There were serious disagreements among musi­cians over whether Morello's feet may not have been just a trifle faster than Rich's. Morello wasn't about to let all those chops go to waste, which was okay with Brubeck. But it was clear to Desmond from the outset that in his musical life, Lester Young's ideal of a little tinky-boom was a rapidly receding golden memory.

THE BLUFF


"In that first week, Paul said I had to get another drummer," Brubeck says. "I told him I wouldn't. I didn't know whether Paul and Norman would show up that night. They came to a record session for Columbia in Chicago during the day, but they wouldn't play. So Joe and I recorded as a duo for three hours. And they told me they were going to leave the group. And I said, 'Well, there'll be a void on the stand tonight because Joe's not leaving.

"So, I went to the job and, boy, was I relieved to see Paul and Norman. But I wasn't going to be bluffed out of Joe. It was not discussed again. That was the end of it.

''Paul knew that Morello was one of the greatest drummers who ever lived, but what he wanted was a steady beat. Some nights Joe would do more than that and Paul would say, ‘Please don't do adventures behind me.' Later, of course, Joe and Paul became very close."

In the months following the failed bluff, what Brubeck has called an "armistice" was set up, but the situation more closely resembled an edgy cease-fire. It was described by Robert Rice in a New Yorker profile of the quartet: "...bloody war was likely to rage whenever the quartet played, with Brubeck doing his best to mediate between Morello on the one hand and Bates and Desmond on the other."

Brubeck was able to make the center hold through all the internecine battles over tempos, volume, and drum fills during solos. Despite their powerful disagreements about how Morello's skills should be deployed, Dave was able to take advantage of the respect Morello and Desmond had for one another's abilities. The respect was ultimately to grow into genu­ine affection, but that was at the end of a rough road.

“For a while it was uncomfortable with Paul," Morello told me in 1992. "But as time went on, it worked out. We became very close and used to hang out together. The last four or five years we hung out quite a lot, actually." Morello's phrasing and inflection were uncannily like Des­mond's when he said that.

"I think the world of Paul," Joe said.

"No, it was more than that. I loved the guy."


“I've always tried to hire great musicians," Brubeck says. "But they've got to be great people too. There has always been real closeness, going back to the days with Cal, even after he left, and Ron Crotty, Joe Dodge, and the Bates Brothers, all those guys. Bill Smith started with me in the fall of *46, and he begins and ends this collection." And, echoing Gene Wright, Brubeck adds, "You can't imagine how much love there was in this band."

Since I began hearing the quartet in person as often as I could in the mid-1950s, I've been convinced that one of the reasons for its huge suc­cess, though obviously bound up in the music, is non-musical. It was the musicians' huge, open, unselfconscious enjoyment of one another. Call it the "yeah" factor.

A lot of the hype surrounding the Brubeck Quartet portrayed them as representative of cool jazz. Their stage manner, like much of their music, was anything but cool. Listening with intensity and appreciation to one another, Desmond, Brubeck and the others expressed approval. "Yeah" is an expression of high praise among jazz musicians. This band had a high "yeah" index, and it was infectious. If they liked each other that much, it was difficult for an audience to be aloof from four tall men having a very good time creating serious music.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EUGENE WRIGHT


The quartet was entering its period of greatest success. With the departure in 1958 of Norman, the second of the three bass-playing Bates brothers to have worked with Brubeck, Eugene Wright joined the band and the roster was set until the Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded on December 26,1967.

Wright had led his own band when he was in his early twenties in his native Chicago, then worked with Gene Ammons, Count Basic, Arnett Cobb, Buddy DeFranco, and Red Norvo. When he joined Brubeck, he had been the bassist for three years in the remarkable edition of the Cal Tjader Quartet that also included pianist Vince Guaraldi. A powerful bassist known for his steadiness and swing, he satisfied Desmond's basic requirements.

But Wright was also interested in Brubeck's time explorations and during his first months with the quartet grew significantly in that dimension. An educator by temperament, and later in fact a conservatory teacher, Wright's roots were always firmly attached to the basics and his mind was always open to new musical ideas. In late 1959 or early 1960 I listened to an intermission conversation, recounted in my book, Jazz Matters, in which the rapidly developing young bassist Freddie Schreiber was telling Gene that his goal was to be as funky as possible.

"Come on, man," Wright told him, "get past that funk thing. Once you get that out of your system, you'll find music opening up to you. There's a lot more beauty in store. That's what's exciting about working with this band. We're into 5/4 time, for instance. Here's how you count it... 1,2,3 — 1,2... 1,2,3 — 1,2. This band is where it's all happening."

In a recent conversation, Gene recalled his doubts when Brubeck asked him to join the band. They resembled Morello's. He told Dave he wasn't sure they were compatible. "I went over to his place so we could try each other out," Wright said, "and we had a ball playing, hit it off right away. We both love to swing. But I told him, 'I don't know if I can make it with your friends.'"

When he got together with all three, Wright discovered a high level of musicianship, naturally, and he found a bond with Morello that resem­bled the instant rapport Brubeck and Desmond had discovered a decade earlier.
"Right away, Joe and I were as one. It was like Jo Jones and Walter Page with Count Basic. It was right from the beginning. When musicians used to ask me how I could play with that band, I told them they weren't listen­ing. I told them I was the bottom, the foundation; Joe was the master of time; Dave handled the polytonality and polyrhythms; we all freed Paul to be lyrical. Everybody was listening to everybody. It was beautiful. Those people who couldn't accept it were looking, not listening."

Wright was not the first black musician in the Brubeck quartet. Wyatt "Bull" Ruther was the bassist in 1951. Drummer Frank Butler also worked briefly with Brubeck in the early days. Joe Benjamin replaced Wright for a period in 1958, during which he recorded the Eurasia album and Newport '58 with the quartet. But Gene returned to the group in '59. His arrival coincided with the upswing in popularity that increased the demand for the band and put it in high visibility. As a result, there were problems that disturbed Brubeck's sense of fairness and his passionate belief in racial justice and equality.

He canceled an extensive and lucrative tour of the South when promoters insisted that he replace Wright with a white bassist. He refused an appear­ance on the "Bell Telephone Hour," a Friday evening television program of immense prestige and huge audience, when the producers insisted on shooting the quartet so that Wright could be heard but not seen. The networks were convinced that the public was incapable of accepting the sight of black and white performers together. Brubeck found the hypoc­risy insupportable.

Among Brubeck's champions was Charles Mingus, the bassist whose high standards and volcanic temper persuaded many people that he was rigid in his views about music. In fact, he admired styles he was unlikely to play and encouraged quality in any area of music. Mingus and Brubeck had known one another since the late 1940s in San Francisco, when the young bassist was up from his native Los Angeles, working in the Bay Area. A group of musicians invited Mingus to a jam session.
LIKE, BOP CHANGES

"All the musicians were bebop players," Brubeck says. "They asked me if I knew the bop changes, and I asked them what they were talking about.

"'Like, you know, man, the bop changes,' they said.

'No,' I said, 'I don't think so.'

'Look, man, do you know "ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE?"?'

'Yeah, I know that.'

"'HOW HIGH THE MOON?'

'Sure, I know that.'

"'Okay,' they said. 'Play those chords, but just don't play any solos.' So, the session went along, and I played the chords. During the first intermission, I walked outside, and Mingus came out and stood next to me.

“'Man,' he said, 'how come you're not playing?' I told him the others had warned me not to take any solos.

"'What?' he said, 'You're the only cat in there who can play.' That was the beginning of a long friendship. We did not hang out alot together, but there were many serious conversations over the years. His importance to me is the faith he always had in my approach to music, when others were skeptical."

In 1962, Mingus and Brubeck again played together. The occasion was the making of a British film, All Night Long, an attempt to place Shake­speare's Othello in a modern setting. Despite the presence of Richard Attenborough in the cast, the movie was a misfire, except for some of the music, notably the Brubeck/Mingus duet.
"My contract for the film specified that I would not play with Charlie Mingus," Brubeck says, "because I knew how demanding Charlie could be and I just wanted to avoid it. It was out of respect." Brubeck pauses a long two beats. "And fear."

"In certain situations, Charlie could be difficult, and I wanted to keep our friendship. He did not want to do his feature with the English musicians on the set. 'These guys can't play my music,' he said. And these were top guys. 'I want some musicians I heard in a club last night.' He brought them out the next day, and none of them could read a note. He fired them.

"The director called me over and said that Charlie had told him, The only guy I want to play with is Dave.' The director knew what my contract said, but he really wanted Charlie in the movie.

"I told him that there were ways I would play with Charlie. 'We don't rehearse,' I said, 'we don't have to synch, and we shoot it live on the set.'"

Standard practice in movie-making is to record sound separate from the film, then later synchronize sound and picture. But the director agreed to Brubeck's stipulations and the duet, called "NON-SECTARIAN BLUES" is a high point in this collection.

"When it was over," Brubeck says, "Charlie picked me up off the floor and gave me a big bear hug. It was wonderful."

Because of his frequent appearances on college campuses, Brubeck was often accused of diluting the black heritage of jazz in an arena of primarily white intellectualism. He responded by pointing out that he was integrat­ing audiences in Southern universities, doing box office business at places like the Apollo Theater in Harlem and winning polls in The Pittsburgh Courier and other black publications.

"I assume," Brubeck says with a certain wryness, "that the readers who voted in those polls were black." So were many of the giants of the music who went against the grain of the critical establishment to publicly ex­press admiration for what the quartet was doing. They included Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Rushing, Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, and the protean stride pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith. Listening to several unidentified pianists in a Down Beat blindfold test, The Lion picked Brubeck as the best blues player of the bunch.
"I like the piano [player]," Smith told Leonard Feather, "because he plays like the guys I told you about at the brickyards in HaverstrawNew York,
where the blues was BORN …. He has heavy hands, but hits some beautiful
chords... You could put this on at anybody's house, and they'd dance all night."

Dave remembers that at a seminar in the late 1950s the eminent Afro-American musicologist Dr. Willis James came down squarely on Brubeck's side when he sang a traditional African song in 5/4 time and said emphati­cally, "The Dave Brubeck Quartet is on the right track."

Through the 1950s and '60s, the track led straight ahead through the slings and arrows of outrageous critics, the good fortune of a gold single ("TAKE FIVE”/
"BLUE RONDO A LA TURK”) and much of Earth's geog­raphy. In 1958, following a series of concerts in the United Kingdom, the band played in many of Europe's major cities and toured for the Depart­ment of State in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, India, East and West Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Later, there were tours of AustraliaNew ZealandJapanMexico, and South America. Behind the Iron Curtain, there were a dozen memorable concerts in Poland followed by concerts in YugoslaviaHungary, and Romania. It was not until 1987 that the Dave Brubeck Quartet finally had the opportunity of performing in the then Soviet Union. Included here is the version of "TRITONIS," recorded on that memorable trip to Moscow, and never released until now.

INSPIRATION ABROAD

Some of the quartet's best performances took place during these trips, among them the 1958 Copenhagen concert recording of "tangerine" included here. The sights, cultures, people, and music the quartet encoun­tered in their travels inspired Brubeck's compositional muse. Out of them came "KOTO SONG," "THE GOLDEN HORN," "MARBLE ARCH," "LA PALOMA AZUL," "RECUERDO," and "BLUE RONDO A LA TURK" — all represented in this collection.

Travel also led to the title of the book Desmond talked about for years but never quite got around to writing. The title was to be a question he claimed was asked by airline stewardesses around the world: "How many of you are there in the quartet?"

The book, in fact, was one of the reasons the quartet broke up after 17 years. Desmond wanted time to write, an activity George Bernard Shaw and Charles Dickens, but very few others, have found compatible with constant travel. Dave had been stockpiling ideas for long-form classical compositions and had worked on some of them off and on for years. He needed extended periods to bring them to fulfillment. Concentrating on these big works, Brubeck produced his first oratorio The Light In The Wilderness (1968), followed by The Gates Of Justice (1969) and Truth Is Fallen (1972), all recorded.
He has composed six other works for orchestra and chorus, including the Easter oratorio "BELOVED SON" and the Christmas cantata La Fiesta De La Posada (Sony Masterworks IM 36662), which has received hundreds of performances in the Christmas seasons since its publication. For Pope John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco in 1987, he wrote a chorale and fugue, "UPON THIS ROCK," which was heard in Candlestick Park by 70,000 people. He has also written a mass, two ballets, including the widely performed Points On Jazz and "ELEMENTALS" (from Time Changes CS 8927) for orchestra. As the titles of his large works suggest, Brubeck feels deep ecumenical religious conviction. He carries it with no trace of pretension or preachiness.

After 1967, although often immersed in composition, Brubeck continued to perform with a quartet. There were many concert tours and a number of recordings with his old friend Gerry Mulligan in a group with Alan Dawson and Jack Six on drums and bass ("SAPITO,""RECUERDO," "ST.LOUIS BLUES"). He and Desmond performed in separate groups at the 1969 White House celebration of Duke Ellington's 70th birthday.

BRUBECK, BRUBECK, BRUBECK, BRUBECK


As the 1970s unfolded, so did the careers of three of Dave's sons. He had done financial planning to provide for the educations of all six of his children, with no thought that they would choose his career. But, perhaps inevitably, some of them did. Just as inevitably, they wanted to work with the old man. A new quartet evolved. At first it was called Two Generations of Brubeck, a name Dave resisted, then The New Brubeck Quartet. What­ever it was called, it had Darius on a variety of electronic keyboards, Chris on electric bass and bass trombone, and Danny on drums. On a few occasions when Desmond rejoined the family for special concerts, Danny quickly became one of his favorite drummers.

In 1974 when I visited the Wilton Hilton, the Brubecks were preparing material for a world tour. In an interview that appeared in the magazine Different Drummer, long-since defunct, Dave told me, "I'm just a side-man. I do what the kids tell me." The progress of the rehearsal suggested otherwise; leadership dies hard. The tour was a success. Dave has per­formed ever since with various combinations of his progeny, and now among them the youngest, Matthew, a cellist (Quiet As The Moon Music-Masters 65067).
As for Paul, he did publish one chapter of what might have become the book. It was an account in the British humor magazine Punch of the quartet's misadventures among the livestock and volunteer firemen’s' demonstrations at a county fair. "Dawn," it began. "A station wagon pulls up to the office of an obscure motel in New Jersey. Three men enter — pasty-faced, grim-eyed, silent (for those are their names)." S.J. Perelman would have been proud to claim authorship.

Desmond accepted a few club dates, mostly in Toronto, because he found there a gloriously compatible Canadian rhythm section composed of guitarist Ed Bickert, bassist Don Thompson, and drummer Terry Clarke. He did a week at the Half Note because it was so easy to fall into from his apartment and, although to have said so would have been to acknowledge that he was a star, because he wanted to help the Canterino family launch the new club. He was featured at the 1969 New Orleans JazzFest in Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet. He recorded now and then. He spent a good deal of time at Elaine's, a congenial East Side restaurant, bar, and hangout for writers.


THE ROAD AGAIN

As 1976 approached, an irresistible idea suggested itself to a promoter, who suggested it to Brubeck, who with trepidation suggested it to Des­mond, Wright, and Morello; a tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. To Dave's surprise, the other three liked the idea. So, there they were, on the road again eight years after everyone had agreed to put the road behind them; 25 cities in 25 days, traveling in a customized bus on an expedition that brought the four even closer, partic­ularly Desmond and Morello.

During the tour, there was a worsening of the eye problems that had plagued Morello all of his life. Already without vision in one eye because a detached retina could not be repaired, he began losing what little sight remained in the other. At first, Morello recalls, Brubeck wanted him to hold out to the end of the tour but when he realized the seriousness of the threat to Joe's retina, insisted that he leave the tour and return to Boston, where his doctor was eventually able to operate and restore slight vision. Danny Brubeck took over the drum chair for the remaining three days of the tour.

Before they parted, Morello extracted a promise from Brubeck that they would all play together again. But before a projected tour of Europe could be planned, a medical checkup for a minor complaint uncovered the devastating fact that Desmond had lung cancer. Chemotherapy showed no effect against the disease and caused side effects Paul was unwilling to endure. He led as normal a life as possible under the circumstances. He went on tour with the Brubeck family group, even joining them in Mex­ico. His last concert was with the Brubecks at Avery Fisher Hall in New York CityFebruary 4,1977. He even recorded on a Chet Baker date a few days before his death. Brubeck says Morello was devastated.
"Toward the end of Paul's life, Joe was so torn up by his being ill," Dave says. "He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him." The student, Steve Forster, had also helped Morello through his crisis.

Charles Mingus, Desmond, and Brubeck remained friends. Mingus sat at Paul's bedside in May of 1977 when Desmond was dying. Once, as he awakened, he saw Mingus, a massive figure in his black hat and cape, looking down at him. Nat Hentoff told the story in the Village Voice:

"Paul, his eyes opening, struggled to focus on the apparition and then, sorting through memory, found the hooded harvester in The Seventh Seal. 'Okay,' Paul said to Bradley Cunningham, who was standing near his bed, 'set up the chess board.'

"And grinned."

Paul died on Memorial Day. He was 52.


Whenever we talk, Dave says, "Boy, I sure miss Paul Desmond." At the annual Memorial Day family gatherings at the Wilton Hilton, much of the conversation, and the laughter, concerns Paul, his wit, his kindnesses, his enigmatic comings and goings, how the Brubeck kids thought of him as Uncle Paul.

Boy, I sure miss Paul Desmond.

Mingus asked Brubeck, "Will you come see me when I am dying?" Dave assured him he would. Less than two years after Paul's death, Dave learned that Mingus was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease and being treated in Mexico. Before he could get there, Mingus died in Cuernavaca of a heart attack in January of 1979.

Brubeck's own heart problems have been addressed by the miracles of modern cardiac surgery in the form of a triple bypass operation. One of his newest compositions, Joy In The Morning, celebrates the gift of life. It is based in part on the 30th Psalm, which among other stanzas of joy and gratitude, reads: "Oh, Lord my God, I cried to thee for help, and thou hast healed me." Joy In The Morning was given its premiere in the summer of 1991 by the Hartford Symphony and Hartford Chorale.

Darius is at the University of Natal in DurbanSouth Africa, teaching jazz to Africans of all races. Danny, Chris, and Matthew have their own bands but still play with their Dad on occasion. Michael and Catherine live nearby; Catherine, of "KATHY’S WALTZ," married and raising two chil­dren, Michael writing verses that inspire his father (Once When I Was Very Young MusicMasters 65083). Dave's other children, the legion of musicians who learned about jazz from the quartet and were inspired by its example, are everywhere. Brubeck and Bill Smith, the incredible clari­netist, continue to give concerts and record together with the present quartet, consisting of Randy Jones on drums and Jack Six on bass.
71 at this writing, Brubeck is composing and improvising with the same zeal and energy he has shown for more than 50 years. There's a good deal of traveling, because demand for Dave Brubeck never seems to stop. When he goes, lola is with him, in Moscow playing for Gorbachev and Reagan, in London on his 70th birthday performing with the London Symphony, in Monaco conducting clinics for young musicians, in a plush room high in a hotel in Santa Monica looking at the beach where, not so many years earlier, a cramped little cottage was their latest refuge from the road and they dreamed of a home of their own.

And back in Wilton when it's quiet and plans have been made for the compositions, concerts and tours to come, they think about the struggle they shared, as a young cowhand unable to read music transformed himself into one of the most celebrated musicians in the world.”

— Doug Ramsey





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