The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will be in concert Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College. Both Chris and Dan Brubeck recorded and toured with their legendary father, Dave Brubeck, along with another brother, Darius, who left the group years ago to start a university jazz studies program in South Africa. Chris Brubeck (bass, trombone) and Dan Brubeck (drums), along with Chuck Lamb (piano) and Mike DeMicco (guitar), have been recording and touring for the last 15 years.
The Brubeck Brothers tour kicks off in Sheridan and includes concert dates with symphonies and jazz clubs in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and New York.
Chris Brubeck writes orchestra arrangements and has been commissioned as a composer for concertos, including for the trombone, with the Canadian Symphony.
BBQ has played major jazz festivals in the U.S. and Europe.
He spoke by telephone from his home in Connecticut Wednesday afternoon.
Stephen Woody: Your tours and your albums include classical music selections and improvisational jazz numbers, and songs that are essentially Brubeck. It’s engaging listening.
Chris Brubeck: We’ve always played a lot with orchestras. Dad wrote 19 major cantatas. He and Leonard Bernstein put jazz and classical music together for the first time with Gunther Schuller, the ‘third stream’ of music which described the combination of both techniques. Most major classical composers of their day — Mozart, Bach — would improvise during their concerts. On ‘Lifetimes’ (2013), we had five Brubeck songs. On ‘Classified,’ (2008) there are classical influences and ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk.’ Our next album is about six months away.
SW: The two greatest jazz albums, your father’s ‘Time Out’ and Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ were released just four months apart in 1959. They were recorded in the same Columbia Music studios in New York. They are jazz’ biggest selling albums and yet profoundly and wonderfully different. Did your father or Davis know what the other was doing?
CB: It’s a good story and what I know about it is that ‘Time Out’ was recorded about a year and a half earlier and it sat in the can because the marketing folks didn’t know what to do with it, calling it a money loser. The cover featured a piece of modern art, rather than a pretty girl; Dave composed original music whereas Columbia liked its jazz musicians to record show tunes or standards that people knew and that they also owned the publishing rights. And lastly, the songs had odd time signatures. The president of Columbia, Goddard Lieberman, knew there was something special with ‘Time Out’ and got behind its release and promotion.
SW: What’s the legacy of being a Brubeck? (Dave Brubeck died in 2012 at 91.)
CB: I’m lucky to be his son. I remember all these great musicians coming to our house and I’d crawl underneath his piano bench. I’ve spent a lifetime playing and recording his music as well as music of our own and playing his compositions our way. He’s been a Kennedy Center honoree (2011); I’ve been in rooms where Sting and Bruce Springsteen seek him out for counsel and conversation. Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones drummer, big band leader) sent flowers when we played with the London Symphony. We’ve had a lifetime of sharing music.
The concert will be an encore of sorts for Brubeck, 64. He was at one time a “rock and roller” and blues musician and his group, Triple Play, performed at the WYO in the 1990s. He fondly recalls the show and the day off where they hung out in the mountains.
“It was a good audience and a beautiful place to live,” he added.
Tickets for the Brubeck Brothers Quartet are on sale at the WYO Theater box office.