FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"REDISCOVERING DAVE BRUBECK WITH HEDRICK SMITH" CELEBRATES THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF A JAZZ GIANT
For a nation numbed and anxious over terrorist attacks and Anthrax mailings, PBS will offer a deliberate change of pace in December with the first intimate full-length documentary on the life and music of celebrated jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, whose personal story and upbeat rhythms embody the spirit of American optimism.
For 50 years, Brubeck has been a giant of American jazz, exciting millions with songs like "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Remarkably, in his 80's Brubeck is still going strong, creating new jazz songs and classical music, touring all over the United States and Europe, playing to sell-out crowds.
On the occasion of Brubeck's 81st birthday, PBS stations nationwide will broadcast "Rediscovering Dave Brubeck with Hedrick Smith" - Brubeck as a boy resisting piano lessons and dreaming of becoming a cowboy like his dad; Brubeck stumbling en route to fame; Brubeck today at the keyboard sharing his creative secrets with Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent Hedrick Smith. PBS has scheduled the program for national broadcast on Sunday, December 16th at 10pm (check local listings).
Brubeck, who hit the cover of Time magazine in 1954, recorded the first instrumental jazz record to go gold, the famed album "Time Out" in 1960. His quartet, starring Brubeck and alto sax Paul Desmond, was a rage on college campuses and behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. It was probably best known for the tune "Take Five," an early Brubeck experiment with odd time signatures like 5/4. Some critics chided Brubeck for the classical influence in his West Coast cool jazz, but contemporaries like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis, praised his daring innovations.
"He brought off what all jazz musicians want to bring off which is that he invented an individual style," asserts jazz critic Stanley Crouch. "That's the hardest thing to do in any art form. When you hear him playing the piano, you know that's Dave Brubeck playing."
"Everybody wonders how you can be a success in this business," adds George Wein, the concert impresario who created the Newport Jazz Festival and others. "Brubeck understood one thing. His music communicated. It communicated with an identity that he had, and the identity that Paul Desmond had. They had a sound that was their own."
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck provides an intimate backstage portrait of Brubeck - in rehearsal, at recording sessions, on the road, and at home, talking about how his most famous tunes were created. He tells Smith how Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and Brubeck put together their signature song "Take Five," and he shares his inspiration for "The Duke," Brubeck's jazz classic in honor of Ellington. The show also takes viewers to see Brubeck rehearsing with his four musical sons for an historic 80th birthday concert with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Not only does Brubeck share a wealth of stories about the jazz world, but interviews with bass player Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello provide an inside glimpse of Brubeck's famous quartet, from an early rivalry between Morello and Desmond to Brubeck's integrating the jazz circuit at southern colleges with Wright, who is an African American. The controversy that swirled around Brubeck because of his distinctive jazz style is captured by interviews with Crouch, Wein, longtime Downbeat editor Ira Gitler and author-musician Ted Gioia.
Brubeck has also opened up his personal archives to Smith and Producer/Editor Cliff Hackel, including home movies that show Brubeck as a boy growing up on a California ranch, riding the range and branding cattle with his cowboy father and gathering ideas for his multi-rhythmic musical style that helped launch West Coast Jazz in the late 40's and early 50's. "Sure you could be bored, unless you had an imagination," Brubeck admits to Smith. " So I'd always be thinking musically,"
In addition to putting his trademark polytonal style on jazz standards, Brubeck has created songs that have become jazz standards, such as "In Your Own Sweet Way," written in 1956 as a tribute to his wife Iola, who came up with the idea of opening up new audiences to jazz by taking his tour to college campuses. That tune has been recorded by dozen of musical greats like George Shearing, Bill Evans and Miles Davis.
Brubeck broke the mold of the "typical" jazz musician, by incorporating ideas from modern classical composer Darius Milhaud, his musical mentor, using radical time signatures and playing polyrhythmic and polyphonic music - that is, playing multiple rhythms simultaneously and in two keys at the same time. His dedication to home and family also rankled some critics and fellow musicians.
"People have certain stereotypes in their head of what a jazz musician should look like, how they should act, how they speak, how they dress," says jazz historian Ted Gioia. "Dave broke those rules. He didn't use hip jargon when he spoke. He didn't dress up like Dizzy Gillespie or have a goatee and wear unusual clothes." And because Brubeck was enormously popular with the jazz public, Gioia observes, "I think there was envy. I think there was jealousy."
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck is the creation of Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and Executive Producer Hedrick Smith and Emmy winning Producer-Editor Cliff Hackel, in association with South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) and KEET Empire Public Television in Eureka, CA. Smith and Hackel have collaborated on eight PBS productions, including Duke Ellington's Washington, Dr. Solomon's Dilemma for Frontline, and Critical Condition with Hedrick Smith, all in the year 2000, and Juggling Work and Family, which aired earlier this fall.
The special is funded by several underwriters including the Adele and Mortimer Lebowitz Fund, The Evelyn Stefansson Nef Foundation, Newman's Own, the ETV Endowment of South Carolina, The University of the Pacific, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Hedrick Smith Productions.