Wednesday, December 5, 2012


It's a sad day for jazz fans.  News came that the legendary pianist Dave Brubeck has died at the age of 91.  He was the leader of the Dave Brubeck Quartet for many years and that was how I first saw him.

I was a college student in North Dakota in the 1950's and learned that the Quartet was performing at a Minnesota college a little more than a hundred miles away.  I had to go see him.

I can still remember at one point during the concert, his saxaphone player Paul Desmond put down his horn and left the stage.  Then the bassist, Eugene Wright, left.  Then Brubeck stopped playing, turned around and leaned back against the piano as the drummer, Joe Morello, played a very lengthy solo.  Finally Brubeck turned around and began adding chords and the other two players returned and finished out the number.  Sure, it was a little bit schmaltzy but it was effective.  The crowd loved it.

Now the rest of the story, as someone used to say on the radio.

I was the co-editor of my college newspaper.  I managed to get backstage to meet the legend by telling one of the guards that I was "the editor of the newspaper" and wanted to interview Brubeck.  I was amazed when he showed me to the area where the Quartet was preparing for the concert.  And Brubeck graciously gave me an interview.

Once that was done he and Paul Desmond posed for a photo with me (in my very collegiate sweater vest) and my co-conspirator, Phil Perry.

Needless to say, we were thrilled to meet our idols and, yes, I did do an article based on the interview.

I attended at least two more Brubeck concerts over the years and always loved his music.  But that first time was a real treat.  Brubeck was a musical genius, I believe, and I'll miss him.  From a performance a few years after I originally saw the group, here's one of their most famous pieces from that era - "Take Five".