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Dave Brubeck at the 50th Monterey Jazz Festival

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Almost 60 years ago, a couple of young Californians named Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Lyons heard a new piano player, Dave Brubeck, at the Burma Club in Oakland. Lyons was booking the music; Eastwood was becoming a fan.

Before long, Lyons had bigger idea -– to relocate his efforts down the coast to Monterey and organize a festival. Brubeck made the musical case with a little concert for the city council and, in 1958, the Monterey Jazz Festival was born. Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry James and Brubeck were on the first roster.

The 50th annual festival, held in September of 2007 on the jam-packed Fairgrounds at Monterey, had the excitement of a world-class event and the familiarity of a class reunion. Eastwood was there, making a documentary about the anniversary, with Brubeck and his 2007 quartet onstage.

Brubeck playing California is like Horowitz in the Ukraine, or Tony Bennett in Queens. Brubeck was born December 6, 1920, in Concord, and grew up on a ranch. Although he and his childhood sweetheart Iola raised their family in Connecticut, Dave established the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific, his alma mater. The Institute is the repository for all his music and, in Brubeck's words, exists "to foster recognition of jazz as a serious art that reflects American ideals of freedom and individual expression, balanced with group responsibility and interdependence."

One of Dave's most personal pieces, "Elegy," unfolds like a prayer. He wrote it for a Norwegian journalist, illustrator and hostess to jazz musicians, Randi Hultin, who passed away in 2000. When he brings Jim Hall onstage, Brubeck notes that they've never played together. Then Hall stays with the Quartet through "Take Five," the big finish.


Guest Host Rhonda Hamilton; MC Tim Jackson, General Manager of the Monterey Jazz Festival and his staff and crew: Music mix by Ron Davis; Technical direction by Duke Markos; Technical Assistant Yujin Cha; Producer Becca Pulliam; Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III @ WBGO Jazz 88 in Newark, NJ, and wbgo dot org

Copyright 2007 WBGO