Brubeck Brothers Quartet in Omaha
Last night the Brubeck Brothers Quartet played a concert at the Holland Center in downtown Omaha. We (Mike DeMicco on guitar, Chuck Lamb on piano, Dan on drums and me on bass) were the featured artists as part of the Great Plains Jazz Festival and also were brought in by the Omaha Performing Arts organization. Friday night we had a great audience, packed to the gills and they listened very intently. I think Omaha has more going on with their entire arts scene than people from either coast might expect. The woman in charge of getting us on stage said the audience was really fired up and added she even met a gentleman who told her “I have a tattoo of Dave Brubeck on my arm”. That was interesting — I’ve never encountered that before in a jazz fan.
After a concert we always go out to the lobby shortly after the last note to say hello to audience members who want to meet us, tell their stories, or ask us to sign programs or CDs. We have dozens of short conversations that run the gamut from “I met my wife when I took her on a date to hear your father play a concert in Texas back in the 60’s!”; or, more often, we will hear: “Time Out” is the first Jazz Record I ever bought and then it led me into Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and all sorts of great jazz which I continue to love to this day!” Last night we met one older gentleman who told me that he had been on the student concert committee at a small college on the West Coast back in the early 60’s and he had booked our dad’s quartet for his concert series. A man in his mid 50’s told me that he has a jazz group which features 3 of his sons who are all musicians. He said he was inspired by our family that toured and recorded with Dad for so many years. I met his youngest musician son who was a drummer and seemed like he was about 17. Another couple who wanted their CD signed were very dressed up. I commented to the woman: “Wow! You are very formally attired, lots of sparkles on your beautiful dress!” I noticed her date had a white carnation in the lapel of his snazzy dark suit. She replied “We’re all dressed up because we just got married a few hours ago and then came straight to your concert!” Well THAT was a first for post- concert banter. You’ve got to offer hearty congratulations and best wishes for a long life together when a couple is that devoted to the music.
Next I met the man in a sweater who said “I’m the man with the ink!” At first it flashed through my mind that he was a reporter. Then I quickly realized that the local paper would probably not have bothered to send a reporter to review a jazz concert so this must be The Man With The Tattoo. To my surprise the tattoo was not out in the open, but remained covered on his upper arm underneath his sweater. This man told me with heartfelt words that when he heard the news of my father’s passing a few years ago, he felt like Dave’s music was so much a part of his life that he wanted Dave Brubeck to remain a significant part of his life, so he got the Brubeck tattoo. It was a surprising moment because he could have said, “wanna see it?”, but he didn’t. And I could have asked “Can I see it?”, but I didn’t. I kind of felt in my heart that perhaps it was more dignified and appropriately honoring Dad’s humble spirit to not see the “ink” that was so significant to this man. My father lives on in my heart and soul and also through his music, which we often play and renew with fresh musical energy. Keeping it abstract felt better so I followed my instincts and never saw my Dad’s name in the flesh. It was obviously an important gesture to this gentleman and he was a very sincere man who was deeply affected by Dad’s music.
So all in all, this was a wonderful concert experience with a great audience, and a very good hall with excellent sound. Years from now when the notes have all evaporated into the cosmos, I think I will remember this concert as the one where we met some people with highly unusual stories and unusual connections to our musical legacy. It serves to remind me that aside from all the notes we play, the original reason music exists is as a vehicle to enable us to connect to our common humanity.
Tonight (Saturday Feb. 27th) Dan and I are going to be featured with the University of Nebraska at Omaha Jazz Ensemble. This is a big band led by Dr. Pete Madsen and filled with great young kids who love jazz. We will be playing original big band music I wrote and some of Dave’s tunes that I have arranged over the years. It is wonderful to play with these kids and help pass the torch to this upcoming generation of Jazz musicians, and is beautiful to see how much these students love Jazz. It brings them joy and camaraderie, embracing them and allowing them to express their personal creativity while playing with their enthusiastic peers. Chuck Lamb and Mike DeMicco are busy all day judging and giving feedback to College and High School Jazz combos which are taking part in the Great Plains Jazz Festival. Then Dan and I will join them this afternoon in giving a masterclass for young Jazz musicians. It is uplifting to be taking part in this Festival and seeing and hearing so many young musicians excited about Jazz, not to mention how much fun it is to be playing with them!!
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Today (February 23, 2014) marks the 69th anniversary of the flag raising at Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Several years ago I wrote “Quiet Heroes: A Symphonic Salute to the Flag Raisers at Iwo Jima” which premiered with the Fox Valley Symphony in Appleton, Wisconsin with Wilford Brimley narrating, and Brian Groner conducting. Three flag raisers survived the battle — this is the story of John Bradley, who not only survived the battle but also the relentless War Bond drives, parades, promotion and notoriety surrounding the famous photograph. John Bradley’s story touched me as it remind due of the millions of stories of all the men and women who served their countries during WWII.
I’m currently working on another WWII piece “Brothers In Arts: An Homage to Our Fathers” which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Allied Liberation of France. I am co-writing it with a French composer, Guillaume Saint-James and it will premiere in Rennes, France June 12, 2014.
We can never thank The Greatest Generation enough for what they did for all of us.
Here’s the first Movement of “Quiet Heroes”:01 Quiet Heroes – Mvt I 1