“I like to play dangerously… where you’re going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven’t created before.”–Dave Brubek
(Note: The title of this post provides an apt, if inadvertent double entendre. I have used the title preface “Time Out” for posts that don’t readily fit into my existing threads. “Time Out” also just happens to be the title of The Dave Brubek Quartet’s signature album. It was issued in 1959 and became the first million selling jazz album ever. It is one of the greatest classics of the genre).
I never met the man, yet somehow I knew him. In one of the choral groups I sang with in high school we performed a Brubek composition (yes he wrote choral music, too). Our director actually tried to get Brubek, who lived in a neighboring town, to make a guest appearance to conduct the piece at our concert. He was unavailable. I never gave it much thought then, though Brubek’s Greatest Hits was the first jazz album I owned–and in fact the only jazz in my collection until I was in my forties. I did not see him perform live until I was in my 50’s and he in his 80’s.
Below are two videos, courtesy of the Litchfield Jazz Festival, where I saw Dave Brubek perform twice. The first video is a promotional piece that begins with Brubek performing in the 2005 festival. In the shot of the audience applause that follows the visual of Brubek you’ll see two audience members stand up near the back. I’m pretty sure the partially obscured one farthest back is me. In the second video, taped at the 2008 festival, NPR interviews Brubek and Paquito D’Rivera. There was no seating in this tent. I was standing in the front row, about fifteen feet from Brubek during the entire interview. I witnessed history that day.
Dave Brubek was an icon, a living legend. He was not just a great artist, he was one of the great ambassadors for the arts. He died yesterday, one day short of his 92nd birthday, in the same hospital where my wife was born. So near, and yet so far away.