Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Remembering Jazz Great Dave Brubeck

For one of Dave Brubeck’s visits with us, we decided on a more intimate series of evenings with him and the quartet in Founders Hall with the stage against one wall and the audience seated around on the other three. The opening night of the run was scheduled for Thursday September 13, 2001.

Mr. Brubeck’s representative was in contact with me late in the day on September 11 looking to cancel and reschedule the concert to a later time. Dave was in Stockton, the quartet was in the New York area, and all air traffic grounded for the next several days. I said that in times of tragedy and great sadness, music brings comfort and solace. He conveyed my message to Brubeck and his response was immediate. He and Iola started the drive down to Costa Mesa, and on the way on his cell phone, put together Bob Hurst on bass, Danny Brubeck on drums and Andy Suzuki on sax. They arrived the afternoon of the 13th, rehearsed for a time, and retired to their hotel.
At 7 p.m., the doors to Founders Hall opened, and the audience began to take their seats. Normally, the house would have been buzzing with excitement, having the chance to experience Brubeck and the group up close. But the capacity house was mostly quiet with subdued conversations, almost like church before the service begins.

Brubeck came out by himself. The audience was delighted to see him, greeted him with warm and extended applause, relieved to enter into the ritual and structure of a live concert. Out of the quiet, he began to slowly form the music, the old spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” He played the melody line simply, with spare harmonic support in the left hand. At the end, the audience held their applause for a long while before rising to their feet in sincere appreciation.  With this one song, he had given expression to all our emotions with dignity and with the art of a master musician.
Danny, Bob and Andy then joined him for the next 90 minutes in a joyful, life-affirming set. We were all the better for it.

by Aaron Egigian, Senior Director of Music Programming at Segerstrom Center for the Arts
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