Dave Brubeck, Oregon
January 1, 1970Routine week this week. The Friday column was about Dave Brubeck, who has two concerts here in Boston and Cambridge this weekend and a new CD out on Tuesday, called "London Flat, London Sharp." The Thursday Calendar pick was on Oregon, an old favorite of mine from my high school years — I must have seen them at least a half-dozen times or more at the late, lamented Amazingrace in Evanston, Illinois.
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Time has always been on Brubeck's side
Legendary pianist-composer looks ahead to Newport, new CD, birthday bash
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | May 20, 2005
The word "time" always pops up in association with Dave Brubeck. There's the Time magazine cover that made the pianist-composer famous in 1954, and the odd time signatures that propelled his album "Time Out" when it came along six years later, becoming the first million-selling album in the history of jazz. Then there's just the sheer amount of time that Brubeck, 84, has been out there making music.
The 5/ 4 classic "Take Five" appeared on "Time Out," of course, and it remains among the most familiar songs in jazz. When Brubeck and his current quartet (Bobby Militello on alto sax, Michael Moore on bass, and Randy Jones on drums) hit town this weekend for two concerts celebrating the release of their newest CD, "London Flat, London Sharp," they will almost surely dip back in time and play it.
"I would say most of the concerts we do," Brubeck says by phone from Michigan, where he performed last weekend. "It would be pretty stupid not to."
Brubeck's audiences arrive expecting to hear "Take Five." It's the tune most closely identified with him, even though it was Brubeck's late, longtime partner, alto sax great Paul Desmond, who is credited with composing it.
Desmond did, in fact, write the two now-familiar melodies that make the tune recognizable. But it was Brubeck who figured out how to put the two together into a coherent whole.
"Without me, there wouldn't be 'Take Five,'" he explains. "Paul just said, 'I can't do it. I can't write a tune."
So Brubeck stepped in and helped him. "I gave it the title, I gave it the form," Brubeck says. "I can tell you that that tune was not complete when Paul came to my house to rehearse. It was born in my front room on my piano."
That he was able to help out composing the piece stemmed in part from his formal study of music, first at the College of the Pacific and later with the French classical composer Darius Milhaud. That educational background made Brubeck a pioneer among jazz musicians, few of whom before him had been to college. Yet Brubeck is quick to point out how deeply his predecessors delved into other forms of music on their own.
"It's surprising when you really get into the history of the great jazz players, going back almost to the beginning, how studied they were," he says, noting that Fletcher Henderson graduated college (albeit with a degree in chemistry, from Atlanta University) and that Louis Armstrong loved opera.
Time figures prominently in Brubeck's long history with Boston, too. In March 1954, Fred Taylor, now the longtime entertainment director at Scullers Jazz Club, brought a primitive tape recorder to a Brubeck performance at the Boston club Storyville and captured music that later turned up on albums, including "Dave Brubeck at Storyville" and "Jazz at Storyville." That same year, Storyville's owner, George Wein, unsuccessfully tried hiring Brubeck for the first Newport Jazz Festival. Brubeck couldn't make it, but he played Newport the next year and has been back more than any other artist since.
For all the references to time in his past, however, the direction Brubeck prefers is forward. He's booked to play Newport again Aug. 14, and there's that new CD coming out next week. When asked of which accomplishment he is most proud, Brubeck brings up his birthday in December, which he'll celebrate in London.
"I'm going to play on my 85th birthday [Dec. 6 with the London Symphony], with the quartet that will be in Boston, and my sons will do one or two pieces with the London Symphony," he says. "They had my sons and me for my 70th, 75th, 80th, and now 85th birthdays. And then on Dec. 17th, we'll do our Christmas cantata that my wife and I wrote, called 'La Fiesta de la Posada.'"
There's another way that time figures in Brubeck's life: It's never something to waste.
Summer school: Berklee College of Music has added a summer jazz workshop to its five-week summer performance program, to be overseen by drummer, Berklee alumna, and Medford native Terri Lyne Carrington. The first batch of high school students, all of whom recently auditioned for Berklee, will include three horns, a four-piece rhythm section, and a vocalist. Workshop faculty will include Tiger Okoshi, Rick DiMuzio, John Lockwood, Jeff Stout, and Daryl Lowery. The program runs July 9 through Aug. 12, with several concert performances planned.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Scullers, DoubleTree Hotels Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10 p.m. Ticket only, $22; dinner/ show, $60.
Oregon is as unusual a quartet as you'll find in jazz. There's the fact that Paul McCandless's main instrument is oboe, for one thing. Another: The group's four original members - McCandless (oboe, English horn, bass clarinet, soprano sax, et al), Ralph Towner (classical and 12-string guitar, piano, French horn, trumpet), Glen Moore (bass, violin, piano, flute), Collin Walcott (sitar, tablas, congas) - performed on multiple instruments. Then there's the group's blending of classical instruments, jazz harmonies, and improvisation, as well as assorted ethnic musical influences from around the world. And finally, Oregon survived Walcott's 1984 death in an auto accident while touring in Eastern Europe, staying otherwise intact for three decades. The fourth member of Oregon these days is Mark Walker, who joined the band in 1996 and is the first full-fledged Oregonian to employ a traditional jazz drum kit. Four years ago, Oregon received four Grammy nominations for "Oregon in Moscow," a collaboration with the Moscow Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra. But the best place to hear them as a quartet has always been in a small club, live.
Wed 5-25 Alejandro Cimadoro Quintet The veteran bassist celebrates his excellent debut CD, "The Princess and the Moonlight," joined by the disc's crack lineup of George Garzone (tenor sax), Joel Yennior (trombone), Nando Michelin (piano), and Bob Gullotti (drums). Ryles, 212 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge. 617-876-9330. 9 p.m. $10.