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Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
Rediscovering Dave Brubeck

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Talking With Dave Brubeck


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The Man

Darius Brubeck -- Piano

Picture of Dave Brubeck riding a horse

"Dave's handling a world that is so immense that has so much range that I know, at my age, I'm not going to get there. But you can deal with that the same way everyone else in the world realizes they're not going to be Duke Ellington or Babe Ruth or Dave Brubeck and just do what you can do."

-- Darius Brubeck

Growing up with the last name Brubeck brings both expectation and pressure. Add to the mix the first name of an avant-guard composer and it's a double-whammy. Darius Brubeck, the oldest of Dave and Iola's children was born in 1947. He was named in honor of Dave's graduate school mentor, the French modern classical composer Darius Milhaud. Darius Brubeck gravitated toward music naturally, and he learned not only from his father, but also from quartet members and jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan that were in and out of the Brubeck home as he was growing up.

Surrounded by great jazz musicians, he had the experience and adventure of going on tour with his parents during the lean, early years of the quartet. "It was normal to spend the night in the car," he remembers. Other kids had to live in houses all the time and I got to ride on trains and live in cars. It was interesting, it was fun."

When he was in grade school Darius wrote a composition for four trumpets that won an award at school. His teacher said, "Tell your father he wrote a good piece." Darius, knowing he had written the composition by himself, felt deflated and confused. His parents were upset at the teacher's presumption that Dave had written the piece.

Later in his musical schooling, Darius studied at Mills College with his namesake, Darius Milhaud. In a counterpoint class, an assistant called Darius "the disaster of the season," a remark Milhaud himself would never had made. "The first born usually has the heaviest burden to bear," remarked Iola Brubeck. "He was the one that sort of had to take the hardest blows."

Darius persevered. He settled into playing the piano and other keyboard instruments. Although he was heavily influenced by jazz, Darius also experimented with other genres including folk, funk and international music. Dave recognized his talents and, in the late seventies, tapped Darius and his brothers Chris and Dan to form a group called Two Generations of Brubeck. For two years they toured internationally, made television appearances and recorded for Atlantic Records.

The audiences loved seeing Dave play with his sons and reviews were solid, but some jazz purists had trouble with the sons' array of electronic instruments and synthesizers which were typical of the times. One English critic even went as far as to remark "How dare they walk on the same stage as their father." But George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival responded, "His kids are good musicians. All of them are good musicians. I don't think it hurt Dave Brubeck at all."

After Two Generations of Brubeck, Darius married a South African woman and moved there in 1983. He became Director of the Center for Jazz and Popular Music and Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. He started the first Jazz Studies course offered by an African University.

In 1989 Darius formed the Afro Cool Concept and performed and recorded at the 1990 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Among high-profile projects in the 1990's was a collaboration with virtuoso bansuri (Indian flute) player, Deepak Ram. Their premiere concert Gathering Forces 2, featured Airto Moreira, Matthew Brubeck, Chris Merz and a line-up of prominent South African musicians. Darius Brubeck and Gathering Forces 3 premiered new works at the 1997 Fin de Siecle Festival in Nantes.

In 1995 Darius gave concerts, lectures and workshops in Europe, ending up with a performance at Vicenzašs Teatro Olimpico with Italian jazz musicians. A 1996 tour to Istanbul featured a University based quartet Thusini and following Turkey, Afro Cool Concept was on stage at the Thailand International Jazz Festival. This band also performed at the Celimontana Jazz Festival (Italy) in July 1997 and on the South African jazz circuit in 1998. In 1999 Darius Brubeck and the NU Jazz Connection, featuring Chris Merz and Feya Faku, gave workshops and several concerts in Peru.

Darius Brubeck has presented several series of national radio shows on Radio South Africa and has worked for the development of jazz in South Africa as a performer, producer, educator and composer. In 2000 he traveled to the University of Nottingham in England where he worked on a M.Phil and presented a jazz series there.

Darius still performs with his father and brothers. In 1997 they recorded In Their Own Sweet Way, an album of Dave Brubeck standards. Darius has also performed with his brothers, Dave and the London Symphony Orchestra, as part of a program honoring his father's 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays. The orchestra performed several of his arrangements. As part of the 80th birthday concert in 2000, Darius specially composed and premiered Four Score in Seven, a tribute to his father.

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