The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, which features two members of one of America's most accomplished musical families, performs this evening at 8:30 at Johnson County Community College.
Friday in the second half of Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with Chris Brubeck about the quartet, and how their music differs from their superstar father Dave Brubeck.
Tickets for tonight's performance, which are $20 and $5 for students with a student I.D., are available through the college box office at 913-469-4445 or at jccc.edu/TheSeries
The Quartet has been all performing all over the world recently, but Johnson County Community College caught up with Chris Brubeck during the holidays and he graciously took some time to tell them exactly what's been going on with him and his brother Dan Brubeck and their quartet. Here's what Chris had to say in his own words:
Where have you and the band been playing recently?
The most interesting gigs the Brubeck Brothers Quartet has played in the last year have included our second appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island and our performance at a music festival in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Oddly enough, both venues are on the sea and by contrast, the Newport Jazz Festival is one of the original jazz gatherings and Dubrovnik just started last year. Newport has been a great jazz celebration since the 1950s. My brother Dan and I used to go the concerts as kids with our dad. It felt amazing to go back there a half-century later playing as professional musicians. The dreams of two little kids had come true. Imagine a beautiful walled city and castle that sits right on the coast of the Adriatic Sea – that's Dubrovnik. We played with the city orchestra there plus we did a separate concert as the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. The communication we enjoyed with the Croatian musicians was a blast. While Dan was doing an amazing drum solo, the orchestra members started screaming with enthusiasm like they were reacting to a soccer goal in a playoff game. You won't get that reaction in the states.
Judging from your website, it looks like you do a lot of traveling.
I do travel a lot. In fact, I just got back from Brazil where I was playing
as a guest soloist on trombone, piano and bass with an orchestra in Sao Paulo. Prior to that, Dan and I played at a jazz festival in Poland and toured for three weeks in the United Kingdom. The Brubeck Brothers Quartet also recently flew to Guatemala to play a concert. The audiences were great and jazz appreciation is universal.
What do you know about Kansas City?
I've played a couple of times in Kansas City. Once – I think it was in the early 1980s – I was playing bass in The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The concert was in a big park. The other time was back in the early 1970s when my rock band was the group featured in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It is a long story but, in short, Chris Brown, the bass player in my group called New Heavenly Blue, ended up singing the role of Jesus Christ and also ended up on the cover of Life magazine. A local talented kid, who was really a guitarist, replaced Chris on bass. That kid turned out to be Pat Matheny. Amazing!!
Do you do a lot of clinics with students like the one you'll be doing here?
We do quite a few clinic situations. Last year we did a concert and some clinics at University of Oklahoma in Norman. We also did a clinic at Chico State in California. Workshops provide an opportunity for us to hear young musicians and to give them some pointers plus answer their questions. It can be very rewarding to know you may have given some feedback that really connects with the students.
Can you give us an idea of what people should expect if they attend your concert here?
We have had a lot of nice reviews that say we actually sound like a group – not simply a collection of skilled jazz musicians. We have developed our own style of playing together. Our last two CDs have been in the "Top 10" of straight ahead jazz radio so we must be doing something right. Part of that is the instrumentation, which includes our gifted guitarist, Mike Demicco, and our extremely inventive pianist, Chuck Lamb. It is tricky but rewarding for piano and guitar to work so well together. My brother Dan has a very unique approach to the drums which combines the tradition of a jazz approach infused with a blend of Latin, rock and funk. I play a fretless electric bass, which sounds a lot like an upright bass, but I can fit it in the overhead compartment of the plane. Sometimes I play bass trombone too.
Dan and I have a special connection, having played together all of our lives. Dan, Chuck, Mike and I play music that has a wide range of moods, from ethereal jazz to hard-driving blues. We play a mixture of original compositions and also some of the tunes associated with The Dave Brubeck Quartet. Dan and I toured with Dave all over the world playing his music so it is in our blood and it is terrific music to boot. Dave's music resonates with folks all over the planet. We play it in our own way of course...we are not a "ghost" or "tribute band." I really like what the Boston Globe wrote about us a few years ago: "They bring a new spirit to straight ahead jazz." If you liked Dave's music, you will like our approach to jazz. On the other hand, if you are someone who has never gone to a jazz concert, we would be a good group to introduce you to a beautiful and uniquely American musical experience.