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Vol 1 Special

A Newsletter Dedicated To Chet Baker And His Music

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The Issues

Vol 1 No 1
Vol 1 No 2
Vol 1 No 3
Vol 1 No 4
Vol 1 Special

Vol 2 No 1
Vol 2 No 2
Vol 2 No 3
Vol 2 No 4
Vol 2 Special

USA Editor
Elizabeth Little

Copy Editor
Bert Whitford

European Editor
Gunthar Skiba

Conducted in 1978 by Gudrun Endress Editor and Co-publisher of       JAZZ PODIUM MAGAZINE

Gudrun Endress: I always wondered that you had so much trouble in your life, while you still had the possibilities to keep up so much beauty in your music.  How did you manage that?

CB:  Well, I think partly because I recognized early in life that there is a lot of what we say in America is bullshit to go through and I saw many people greatly affected by things that happened to them and I just kind of had it in my head to try to put that part of me in a sort of unreachable place, you know.  So as to try to maintain it as best I could.  And it worked out.

GE:  Unreachable place, does it come out maybe, if not in music, in daily life?

CB:  I imagine in certain ways.  For example, when I was in prison in Italy in 1960, there wasnít one person who spoke one word of English in the place, no books in English, and I was locked up by myself Ė the first six months by myself.  I wasnít allowed to speak to anyone.

GE:  You had no lawyer, nobody?

CB:  I had a lawyer, but I only saw him once before the trial.

GE:  There were no jazz friends who could help you?

CB:  They couldnít see me; no one was allowed to see me.  I was seen as a very dangerous criminal and had to be put in a cage and protected away from society. 

GE:  But you never thought of committing suicide?

CB:  It had nothing to do with that.  Itís just hard for people to accept that there might be some other people who just like to get high, you know, and who are able to do it and handle it without flipping out or doing something crazy, you know.  Anyway, I learned to speak Italian and I speak pretty good Italian, because I had people from all over Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Rome, Naples, and the Lombard, you see, Torino, people from everywhere.  So I was able to hear all the dialects and I played a lot of chess and I had my horn with me and I had books in the end from the outside, so I was cool.  I was there for about 15 months.  Thatís not long.  I mean, I know several people whoíve done a lot of time.

GE:  Was that the only time or the longest time?

CB:  It was the longest time, but certainly not the only time.  And then I had trouble in Berlin because I went to two doctors within a 24-hour period, so they put me in the nuthouse for 40 days and then they deported me to New York.  I had trouble in England.  I got deported from England to France and of course I got into trouble all over the United States, but, like I say, when those kind of things happen, you try not to be affected.  And just be patient, very patient.  Until whatever is happening, itís finished.  If itís one year, you learn to be patient.

GE:  when did all of these troubles start, in the Ď60ís or in the Ď50ís?

GB: No, in 1957.  I was 27 years old.  And all the musicians that I thought were the greatest musicians were into that, you know.  And I never messed with it for a long time.  All the time I was with Gerry Mulligan, I was clean, but people thought I was doing something.

GE:  I always thought it happened after the death of Dick Twardzik.

CB:  It did.  Thatís when it happened, in 1957, when I went back to New York after he died.  Thatís when I started it and I kept that pretty strong for about 13 years and then a judge in California was very kind to me.  He could have given me five years like poor Art Pepper, who got sent twice to San Quentin or some crazy place like that, but the judge sent me to a sort of guidance-center where they test you, psychological and every way possible, t decide what to do with you.  And when I went back to court with the results of the testing, he let me go.  He put me back on the street again.

GE:  Is that the only way that you can cure yourself?

CB: Thatís the only way.  And I did.  I got on the methadone program.  I was on it 7 years.  I started out at 8 milligrams, and little by little I had to take the dosage down and down until I came to Europe with just enough for two months and I made it last for four and a half months.  And I just tapered out to nothing and stopped.

GE:  That means you are thinking a lot about why you use this.  Is it because you canít bear the environment around you, all the bullshit?

CB:  Yes, the people I had to do with were a drag, the stuff that I got was never any good.  You know, you put all of that energy into the wrong direction.  So I decided almost too late to cut it loose.  Just to see if I could make it again after everything.  Kind of a challenge in a way, because after so much bad publicity itís hard to get people to believe you.

GE:  But the bad publicity is publicity, donít forget that.

CB:  Yes, I know, but everybody reads that and youíd be surprised how many people believe it Ė what they read. Not people like you, people with some sophistication.

GE:  But all these people who are judges or judge these persons, they are maybe drinking a lot of schnapps or beer everyday and they donít think about that.

CB: Oh, but thatís all right. Drugs are something out of the norm, that is really to be feared, I guess. And there are a lot of people, friends of mine, that didnít make it, who couldnít handle it and it killed them.  So it comes to a point where you really have to say, do you want to live or do you want to die and then you make that choice and thatís it.

GE:  And whatís the reason why you want to live, to play music?

CB:  Thatís about the only thing Iím good for I guess.

GE:  Everybody has another task in his life.

CB:  Well, I donít know.  I have three fine children, so Iím cool in that area and I love music and I put all my energy into it, you know.  Itís really the only thing, aside from realizing that life is really beautiful, itís wonderful to be alive, even for just one more day.

GE:  When did you have these feelings?

CB:  I guess it was when I got out of prison last time in California and the judge put me back on the street. You see, he was a trumpet player, this judge, in college, so I guess he had some knowledge of me and my problems and didnít want to hurt me too badly.  And I just started thinking about it.  Then, when I moved to San Jose where my mother lives and itís kind of rolling, green hills, I just walked around every day for a couple of months.

GE:  You felt in harmony with Nature.

CB:  Yes, I finally realized a little bit, took the time to think about a few things.

GE:  When was this?

CB:  This was in 1969, at the end of 1969.

GE:  And then you already had a family?

CB:  Yes I did.  I had the three children.

GE:  Did you always support your family or not?

CB: Well yes, but I was on welfare in California for a couple of years and a year in New York when I was unable to play.

GE:  And out of the sale of your records there wasnít enough money?

CB:  I never have gotten any royalties for any of my records.  Never a penny.  Hard to believe?

GE:  How is your contract today?

CB:  Today is a completely different thing, because Iím involved with someone who worked for Creed Taylor, his name is John Snyder.  You know itís a different thing.  I own the tapes with him. Itís my property; whatever I record, I own it, and I lease it to him to distribute. John is a wonderful man and heís been trying to start his own company, working very hard for years. And heís just getting it going.

GE:  Are you now recording for Artistsí House?

CB:  Yes, but not exclusively.  Iím dong an album this month in Paris with Sonopress and Iím also going to record right after that here in Germany, in Stuttgart. And then, when I get back to New York, I have a couple of albums to make, so Iím going to be really busy.

GE:  Do you know about the sales of maybe the first thing you did again with Mulligan, the Carnegie Hall album?

CB:  I have no idea.  You see, Gerry Mulligan made that deal with Creed Taylor.  Although I was the one with the contract with Creed Taylor, Gerry somehow managed to exclude me from any royalties for those albums.  And Creed agreed to it.  Thatís one of the reasons Iím not with Gerry Mulligan any more.

GE:  But sometimes there was a complete understanding in music.

CB:  In music, yes.

GE:  Not in the area of humanity?

CB: No, heís too nervous for me. Heís so nervous he makes me nervous.  At the club, when we first started, there used to be terrific arguments off the stage between Garry and Chico Hamilton or Bob Whitlock and Gerry and myself and all four of us. But when we got up on the stage to play, it was finished.  But when we got off, it might start again, but it was a very unique group in as much as there was no piano and it left a lot more open space.  The piano covers up a lot.  The piano is an orchestra itself and when youíre playing behind an orchestra, sometimes you get lost in it.  But without it, everything was very clear and the space was there and the feeling was there.  Gerry wrote wonderful tunes. Heís a marvelous composer and arranger, an incredible arranger.

GE:  But he arranged only three songs for his big band.

CB:  Yeah, maybe heís getting lazy in his old age. Thatís a hard job.

GE:  If you have to keep together a big band, then you donít have time to arrange.

CB:  Right, and Iím sure he put a lot of hours into those three arrangements he did.

GE:  Is he slow in doing that?

CB:  I think he takes a lot more time than the average arranger.  Some guys can write an arrangement for a big band in three or four yours, you know.

GE: You never did arrangements?


CB:  No.  I donít know, by the time I make up my mind about something, Iíve already thought of ten other ways it could be and then after that I can never make up my mind how to put it down and say, ďYes, thatís it, that way.Ē It could be just as good another way, you know. I get all hung up with that.

GE:  the things you did with the big band or Paul Desmond and Jim Hall, was this your idea to play with these musicians or with the big band?

CB:  No, it was suggested by John Snyder. I donít know if Creed TaylorÖCreed Taylor probably made the suggestion and John talked to me about it.  The arrangements were all done by Don Sebesky, but I mean they were wonderful musicians:  Bob James, the Concierto de Aranjuez album; and then came the two Carnegie Hall albums and then I worked for A&M and I made another one with Sebesky.

GE:  The new one, YOU CANíT GO HOME AGAIN?

CB:  Right, with Mike Brecker, John Scofield, Richie Beirach.

GE:  Who chose which song to record?

CB:  I didnít choose anything.

GE: It doesnít matter to you which songs you have to play?

CB:  Well, I know if itís going to be Don Sebesky itís not going to be something too free.  I mean, itís going to be pretty.  Iím sure of that, because he has wonderful taste in music.  And heís a good arranger.  They might have been just a shade over-arranged, but it depends on where your audience is.

GE:  Whatís the group or the instrumentation you most love to play with Ė just with the rhythm section, or without piano?

CB:  I can play with just a bass player, you know.  In fact, sometimes itís nice to do that.

GE:  Do you have a favorite song Ė MY FUNNY VALENTINE?

CB:  I donít know.  I donít really have a favorite song.  There are so many beautiful songs that it seems ridiculous to say that one is prettier than another.  I wouldnít know what to say about a favorite song.

GE:  It doesnít matter if you play the same song every night, like MY FUNNY VALENTINE?

CB:  Oh, I donít play it very often.

GE:  And if you get a request?

CB:  If I get a request, sure I play it.

GE:  You canít escape when you say you donít love to play it?

CB:  No, thatís beautiful too, MY FUNNY VALENTINE.  Thatís one of those songs thatíll be here . . . become, a what do they call it, a classic?

GE:  When you do a concert, are the songs for the evening already fixed or is it just what kind of mood you are in?  Do you decide on the stage?

CB:  Usually, I mean we have about 30 or 40 tunes we do, so I know itís gonna be one of those.  Start out with a medium, then do a ballad, then a bossa nova, and then something faster.  Then we have a couple of rock things we do.  Weíre planning some tunes from Bud Powell, Richie Beirach, Phil (Markowitz), our piano player.  We just havenít had time to plan or rehearse, we were moving so fast.

GE:  Itís just a group you collected for the European tour, this wasnít your American group?

CB:  Yes, itís my American group, but without the bass player thatís supposed to be here.  And my whole library, the drummer left it sitting on the street in Boston a few months ago and itís lost, so we have no music, so it kind of limited us on this tour.  But when we come back in May weíll have everything new.

GE:  When you come back in May weíll arrange a concert.  Two years ago we waited and you didnít show up.

CB:  I tried but at that time I was still messing around.

GE:  And you didnít have the chance to do something . . . .?

CB:  Thatís it.  But thatís a nice concert hall.  I remember it very well.  The acoustics were good Ė thatís nice.

GE:  When you travel around, are you interested in seeing some buildings or castles?

CB: Yes.  Sometimes we rent a car, but not very often and sometimes, like in Koblenz, a man who was the head of the jazz association, or whatever it is, picked us up the next day in his Mercedes Benz and took us around to see a castle here and a castle there and we ended up at his home drinking wine from his cellar.  We had a good time. That was fun.

GE:  Once you said when you donít play you are very melancholy or sometimes depressed.  Is that still true?

CB: Oh yes, I think so because I guess I must have been allowed by whatever it is to survive this whole deal, because I was intended to play, to entertain people.  So thatís what Iím gonna try to do.

GE:  When you entertain, you mean you get in communication?

CB:  Yes.  And so far weíve had a lot of communication in Germany Ė in Frankfurt, in Cologne Ė we had so many people, I mean you couldnít move.  But they always have us play in these tiny little clubs.

GE:  Maybe you have the wrong manager.

CB:  No, he didnít have anything to do with it.

GE:  Youíre not interested in playing music that is not melodic, are you?

CB:  No, not really.  I can play free.  For me itís easier to play free than the way we play, because you have to play within certain boundaries.  And the trick is to be fresh and melodic within those boundaries, so you can play any damned thing you want to.

GE:  If you want to make noise, you can make noise.

CB:  Yes, you can do anything.

GE:  But those boundaries, itís just a technical aspect of the music.

CB:  Well, a harmonic aspect, harmonic boundaries.  When we play we turn the rhythm around pretty good.  We have a nice drummer, Jeff Brillinger, who was with ĎWoody Herman for a long time, but heís working with me for a couple of years now.  So is Phil Markowitz.  And we have a bass player named John Burr, who was with Stan Getz.  I havenít been in touch with him; he got a call from Stan so he wanted to try that but he should be here with us.  Iím mad at him.

GE:  When did you start to sing Ė before you started playing trumpet or afterwards?

CB: Before, but not many people know that.

GE:  Thatís what I thought about when I talked to you on the íphone because the way you blow is the way you sing.

CB:  My dad was a musician but my mother wanted me to be a singer.  When I was about 12 or 13 she would drag me around to these things Ė at that time in America we had talent contests and things like that, you know.

GE:  Popular music?

CB:  Not just music Ė tap dancers, harmonica players, accordion Ė and I got up there and I was very small for my age and sang these ballads with a high little voice.  I never did win.  I came in second once to a girl tap dancer.

GE:  You never expected you could make a career as a singer?

CB:  No, I never thought about it too much.  I was too busy being a kid.

GE:  Maybe after the thing happened where they beat out your teeth and you werenít able to play the trumpet Ė didnít you have the thought: ďMaybe I could do it?Ē

CB:  No, it never occurred to me that I could get by only by singing, because most people still donít think of me as a singer.

GE:  But you think of yourself as a singer?

CB:  I can perhaps sing better than I play, I think.  It comes easier.  Itís much more easy for me to do, because Iím not too big.  I weigh about 135 pounds and itís not very much to play trumpet, because I have a very big trumpet Ė itís almost as hard to play as a flugelhorn.

GE:  And why did you choose the big one Ė because of the sound?

CB:  Because of the voice that it has.  It takes a lot of energy to get it, but itís worth it.

GE:  So you save energy when you sing?

CB:  Yes, itís much easier to sing.  I donít have to put out as much energy, except when I scat.  Iíve been doing quite a bit of scatting and that takes more energy because I never scat the same way twice.  Itís just like playing.  You try to always find a different way of saying it, a different way of phrasing it thatís melodic and, oh Ė I donít know exactly how to say it.  And sometimes it moves so quickly that itís hard to be able to hold it.  Youíll see tomorrow night.  You can actually see that itís more difficult when Iím scatting.  You can see itís a lot harder work, but itís fine.

GE:  When you say you think about it doesnít it come a lot of time out of your unconsciousness in the moment you do it?

CB:  Well, you have an instant to find that idea, just an instant, you know.  And then itís time to get the idea out in time and at the end of that phrase, of that idea, you have an instant to find where youíre going to go next and you try to hit that note right on the head.  Youíll see.

GE:  Does Europe have a special meaning for your career?

CB:  Absolutely.  Itís very strange, but I could work in Europe, I think, year íround.

But in the states, itís quite different because I donít play Las Vegas, although I donít know why because Iíve been told that the groupís appeal is such that it could be utilized in a lot nicer atmosphere, nicer rooms.  But then you wouldnít be playing for the people what know what you are doing.  Youíd be playing for people that just have a lot of money.  So we stay in the jazz clubs and we work in New York every three or four months for a week and the rest of the time. . . . .

GE:  You have no college concerts?

CB:  Well, there are a lot of college concerts, but so far I havenít been able to find anybody to connect me with them, you know.  I guess Iím not big enough.

GE:  I thought you still had a big name?

CB:  I donít know.  Iíd like to play at colleges, just to play for the younger people because those are the people I need to get to.  Maybe Iíll have an opportunity in the next year.  James is going to work on it.  I just met James a few months ago and heís got all the right qualities and the aggressiveness, the energy, I think, to help me a lot, because I donít have that.  I donít want to get involved in that aspect of it.

GE:  Back to Europe.  Would you say you have had the saddest moments of your life here?

CB:  No, I wouldnít say that at all.  Actually, I havenít had Ė except in Italy and I made a vacation out of that.  In England and in Germany, they didnít want to hurt me too badly.  I think they were just trying to protect me.

GE:  Thatís a very nice way of saying it. 

CB:  Well, I believe that, because they only held me for a short time and then they sent me out of the country.  I donít think itís right that they should make me stay out for 15 years, though.  I mean, I didnít exactly rob the First Berlin National Bank.  All I did was go to two doctors.  Itís ridiculous. But anyway, thatís over.

GE:  What are your hopes for the future.

CB:  When you say future, future can mean different things to different people, depending on how old you are.  Iím almost 50 Ė Iíll be 49 this month.  Iíve never had a home.  Iíd like to be able to perform, to entertain people and to earn, to be able to find some place to sit down when Iím too old to play anymore.  I figure I probably have maybe another ten years of playing.

GE:  But donĎt you think the music of the last ten years is so loud and aggressive that people have a longing for pretty and quiet and melodic music?

CB:  Well, I would imagine so.  I would think theyíd be getting tired of the disco beat, but the kids like to dance and thatís cool.

GE:  Thereís not only music for dancing.

CB:  Thatís right.  There is so much bad music and I think that the people that play it over the air and keep cramming it down everyoneís throat are really the ones that are hanging up things the most.  But then I guess they only reflect the taste of the majority of the people.  But when people are young, letís face it, they just donít know whatís happening.

GE:  If they donít get exposed to something. . . . .

CB:  Theyíll never know if they donít get exposed to it.  Theyíll never be able to make a decision to say, ďHey, thatís nice too.Ē  You have the same things here on the air, I noticed, as the majority of the stations in the States have.

GE:  That doesnít mean they always are doing this.  They always try to produce jazz programs, beautiful music 

CB:  Well, that may be in a city like Stuttgart, but, for example, where we played in Schongau the promoter of the concert told me the mayor of the town helped them out on the first jazz concert in a financial way or in some way because it was jazz.  We were the second one.  After the first one, the city withdrew itís support because it was jazz.  They said anything classical but if itís jazz music we wonít help you.  Now that is strange, you know.  What can you say about it, that jazz music is not serious?

GE:  They donít know.

CB:  I know they donít know.  God bless them.





November 8 & 9, 1994

By Betty Little

Imagine our surprise when we called the Brubeck offices to arrange a time for the interview as instructed and a male voice answered,  ďIím sorry, (Iolaís) not in, but this is Dave, may I help you?Ē  That was only the beginning.  When we congratulated him on his induction into the Down Beat Hall of Fame, he said, ďWhat?Ē  We repeated the news and he asked, ďWhy didnít they tell me?Ē

It was deja-vu all over again.  In 1990 when we first talked to Chetís widow, Carol Baker, she was unaware that Chet had been inducted in 1989.

Brubeck made the cover of TIME Magazine on November 8, 1954, and was the proverbial overnight sensation; although his first commercial recording was released in 1949.  The TIME article heralded ďthe New Jazz Age,Ē noted Brubeckís success on college campuses, and spotlighted Ė complete with photographs Ė other leaders in West Coast Jazz, who TIME referred to as ďModernists:Ē  Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Shorty Rogers.  Despite the article's accolades, many critics did not agree.  Whether his commercial success or his innovations with counter-rhythm were the reasons, many critics discounted Brubeckís music, we can only guess.  Today, the critics are recognizing his unique contributions both as a composer and performer.

Gene Lees, respected author and jazz critic, writes about his first response to Brubeckís music in the Ď50ís, ď. . . I was intimidated by those I thought must know more than I, keeping an uncourageous silence about Daveís playing, though I always recognized his gifts as a composer.Ē  He continues, ďListening to the Sony reissue (TIME SIGNATURES, a 4 CD retrospective of Daveís recordings) I made the rediscovery of one of the most interesting and individual piano players jazz has produced.  The public was right; the critics were wrong.  Dave Brubeck, part Modoc Indian, is one of the great jazz musicians.Ē  (According to Dave, ďGene insists that the Indian on the buffalo nickel is proof enough.  Actually, Iím not positive of this heritage.  If itís true, Iím proud of it.Ē)

Gene Leeís book, JAZZ, BLACK AND WHITE, CATS OF ANY COLOR, New York, Oxford Press, 1994, is the third collections of essays from his Newsletter, JAZZLETTER, to be published.  The book is a treasure trove of information for jazz fans, with pieces on musicians:  Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Red Rodney, Benny Golson, et al.  The chapter, ďJazz Black and White,Ē is a sensitive and much needed discussion on the anti-white bias in jazz.

Brueck has always hated racism and Lees reports that in World War II Dave organized the first integrated military jazz band.  This was no USO show packaged in the states;  Dave was a regular enlisted man stationed in Germany.  The night before he was to go on a very dangerous mission to knock out German guns that were shelling the American troops, he and three others were ordered to organize a band.  Most of the musicians had been in battle and won Purple Hearts which they wore while playing gigs near the front lines.  Dave stayed with the band for the rest of the war.

He carried a Bible and a copy of Spenglerís DECLINE OF THE WEST in his backpack during the war.  Lees found Daveís heavily underlined copy of the Spengler in Bartís used bookstore on Ojai, California.  The next day was the Brubeckís wedding anniversary.  Lees and the bookstore owner gave the book to Dave and Iola as an anniversary gift.  Dave was delighted to receive the treasured book which had mysteriously disappeared then miraculously reappeared.  (Hope these teasers will inspire you to get Lees book; itís a wonderful read.)

Daveís collaboration with Paul Desmond produced some of jazzís most beautiful music, and one of the most paradoxical relationships in the history of the genre.  Fire and Ice, Oil and Water Ė most any metaphor of opposites could apply.

Doug Ramsey wrote the 40 page liner notes for TIME SIGNATURES, the CD collection which Lees credits for his critical revision of Daveís work as a jazz pianist.  Ramsey tells about how the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond almost didnít happen.  Paul was leading a group with Dave on piano at the Band Box in Palo Alto when he accepted a short gig in Feather River, promising to re-join the group.  Paul didnít return as promised and Dave, who had Iola and two small kids to support, ended up taking a gig for scale which also provided housing Ė a corrugated tin enclosure.  The heat was so intense they had to get out during the day.  Howís that for unforgettable ď Following the ďshort gigĒ Desmond took a job with Jack Finaís band, then he went on the road with Alvino Rey.

After the ďtin shackĒ engagement, things began to happen for Daveís group.  Paul heard one of the recordings and wanted to join Daveís group.  According to Ramseyís recounting by Iola, Paul shows up at the Brubeckís house asking to talk with Dave.  ďíÖIola urged Dave to see Paul who said, ďíIf youíll just let me play with you, Iíll babysit, Iíll wash your car.íĒ  The partnership, which lasted until Paulís death, was established with a handshake.                                  BRUBECK TODAY

When we spoke with Brubeck, he had just returned from playing in two jazz festivals Ė one in San Francisco and a second in Redondo Beach.  He was delighted that his music has gained positive critical recognition after all these years.  The festivals were reunions and reaffirmations. 

Betty Little: What about the festivals? 

Dave Brubeck: In San Francisco, Gerry Mulliganís Quartet and my Quartet played, then Gerry and I

played a duet.  At the end, we did a piece where my bass player and drummer came out.  At the Redondo Beach Jazz Festival, Gerry played one night, and we played two nights later.  The Redondo Beach Festival was kind of a tribute to the West Coast jazz people who were still around.  It was very successful. 

BL: Itís ironic that in theí50ís the critics more or less put down West Coast jazz, but the public liked  it.  Now the critics are beginning to understand West Coast jazz and are giving you, Paul, Gerry, Chet and a lot of others their due. 

DB: Yeah, itís just starting to happen.  Did you see the new Gene Leeís book? 

BL: Yes, I have it.  Iím impressed that you seem to be an atypical jazz man.   Youíve been very successful.  You go on the road, but you have very close family ties.  How did you manage that? 

DB: Well, a lot of credit goes to my wife, and I also planned a lot of things where I took my two oldest sons with me.  In 1958, we played all over Europe and then we went behind the Iron Curtin, and played in Poland and Turkey.  Then I had to send the kids home because the State Department didnít want them to go into some areas that were not so secure like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and some other places. 

BL: You seem so laid back Ö such a comfortable person but in World War II Gene Leesí book describes how you were really in the thick of things.  I enjoyed reading the wonderful story about how he got your book back.

DB: Yeah (laughs). 

BL: Would you mind commenting on some of the recordings listed in the  Down Beat article discography? 

DB: Okay. 


DB: Iím surprised that everybodyís loving it, even the critics. 


DB: LATE NIGHT I like, and the next album out is a sequal to LATE NIGHT.  Itís gonna be called JAMMINí AT THE BLUE NOTE, and will be coming out in March of next year.  (This CD was released as NIGHTSHIFT) 


DB: Yeah, with Danny and Cris (Brubeckís sons).  Boy I like that album. 


DB: Thatís really a great four CD box.  Doug Ramsey did the notes and heís doing the notes on JAMMINí AT THE BLUE NOTE (NIGHTSHIFT). 

BL: NEW WINE DB: Thatís with the symphony orchestra up in Canada at Montreal.  Yeah, thatís a nice album. 


DB: Yeah, thatís really a dynamite album.  I think Iím playing really at my peak in ďTritonis.Ē 


DB: Yep, good. 


DB: Yeah, good 


DB: Thatís really a far out album. 

BL: TIME OUT.  Do you ever get tired of playing ďTake Five?Ē 

DB: No.  Any tune you play differently every night.  If you get tired of playing it itís because youíre not improvising. 

BL: Well, I thought maybe you had played it a hundred million times. 

DB: Well, that doesnít make any difference. 


DB:Yeah, thatís a nice album. 


DB: Yeah 


DB: They just re-released it on CD and there are two new tracks that I forgot I ever recorded. 


DB: OBERLIN is really fantastic. 


DB: PACIFIC is really good, too. 

BL: Did they leave out any of your favorites? 

DB: Well, there would be a lot of other things.  I think I made 108 albums. 

BL: We wondered why they left out the 1975 DUETS album with Paul.  We have always been fascinated because you and Paul seemed to have such different personalities, yet the musical marriage was just great. 

DB: Yeah, it worked very well right through his last concert with me and my sons. 

BL: We certainly miss him. 

DB: Yeah. 

BL: We were amazed at your tolerance in the early Ď50ís when you agreed to work with Paul. 

DB: (Laughs) 

BL: Were you amazed? 

DB: Yeah, I was.  You had to have a lot of patience with Paul. 

BL: It sounded as though Mrs. Brubeck was very good with people and relationships and helped you two over the rough spots. 

DB: Yeah, right. 

BL:  In terms of your musical influences, who comes to mind immediately? 

DB: Oh, I think my mother, brothers and everybody I heard. 

BL: Are there any artists you listen to a lot? 

DB: Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Stan Kenton, Bix Biderbeck, of course Louie Armstroong and Duke Ellington Ė all the pioneers I listen to. 

BL: We were fascinated to learn that you didnít read music that well and you were a senior music major in college when some faculty discovered it.  Could you say a bit about that? 

DB: Well, Iíve known quite a few guys, and Chet was one of them, that didnít read that well.  I met Chet when he was about 18 years old.  When he was in the Army in San Francisco he used to come and sit in.  That was before heíd met Charlie Parker or Gerry or anybody, so Iíd known him probably earlier than most people you associate Chet with.  Iíd say, ďChet , what do you want to play?Ē  Heíd say, ďOh, anything.Ē  Iíd suggest a tune and Iíd ask, ďWhat key?Ē and heíd say , ďOh, you just start.Ē  I started realizing he didnít think in terms of key or think in terms of the way most other musicians thought.  He was just totally natural.  So youíd start a tune and heíd come in right after the introduction or the first few bars.  I would say he was the most natural musician I have ever been around. 

BL: How was Chet to work with? 

DB: Great. 

BL: In Doug Ramseyís notes for TIME SIGNATURES, he writes that when you studied with Milhaud he encouraged you to do it your own way. 

DB: Right. 

BL: What do you remember most about him? 

DB: Well, he was absolutely for me being a jazz musician.  He thought any American composer should use the jazz idiom, or he wouldnít express his culture.  He was the first one to use jazz in classical music, called ďCreation of the World.Ē  There is a good Bernstein recording on Columbia. 

BL:  Have you been influenced by jazz gospel blues? 

DB: Oh, yeah.  I think one of the most wonderful things in American music is spirituals, gospel music.  Itís been a favorite of mine.  I used to listen in the Ď40ís to a radio station in Alameda, California, near Oakland and San Francisco.  I loved that station, and to this day I love gospel.

            Mahalia Jackson Ė I knew her and her pianist (Mildred Falls), I loved her too. There were gospel groups: The Mighty Clouds of Joy.  Oh God, I like them.  I think I was on tour with them maybe 30 years ago.  I like TAKE 6 now.  I think they are wonderful. 

BL:  Oh yes, that group of young black men who sing a capella.  Who do you enjoy listening to now in the current crop of jazz players? 

DB:  Anybody there are so many great young pianists. Harold Brown from Knoxville, James Williams.  They have an album out with four pianists, all of them from Memphis.  I like that group very much.  Then Jessica Williams, sheís from California, she really plays.  Sheís so great.  Course I like all my contemporaries like George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Marian McPartland and Billy Taylor. 

BL: Billy is from North Carolina originally, Greenville.  Weíre real proud of him. 

DB: Yeah, heís doing great. 

BL: Are you doing any composing now? 

DB: Always. 

BL: Any other religious music? 

DB: Always. 

BL: How do you schedule your life?  Do you have any particular pattern? 

DB: No, just the pattern to work whenever you can, wherever you are. Donít say, ĎOh, I canít do this, Iím on an airplane or a train.í  It takes a lot of discipline because itís a lot more fun to watch a football game sometimes Ö 

BL: What is your usual work week, in terms of your expectations of yourself? 

DB: Every day itís full.  Right now there are 20 projects screaming to be finished. 

BL:  Youíre going to Alabama on Friday.  Where? 

DB: Tuscaloosa.  Weíll be doing one of my religious oratorios. 

BL. How do you choose your material?  Your recordings are so varied Ė originals, standards, movies and show tunes.  How do you go about choosing what you want to do? 

DB: There is no pattern.  Somebody will come backstage and say, ĎWould you write such and such?í  Like the piece I just finished.  Itís a cello concerto Ė that is about the closest thing I can tell you.  I wrote it for my son, Matthew who is a cellist.  Itís for multiple cellos, four to twenty.  Heís doing this solo part which calls for improvisation.

            For the cellist who doesnít improvise, Iíve written out the cadenza and everything.  If my son is playing it he will switch back and forth between what is written and improvisation because he is free.  Itís like the early cadenzas before everything was written down in classical music.  You expect the soloist to be able to improvise like a jazz musician. 

BL: I didnít realize that. 

DB: Mozart and pre-Mozart, always left room for the artistís improvisation. 

BL: I always thought that was so structured 

CB: Almost everybody thinks that, but itís not true at all. 

BL: Speaking of unexpected improvisation, why did Paul Desmond sometimes sign autographs ĎChet Bakerí? (Pause) Do you know? 

DB: He did once in a while.  I never quite figured that out.  He had a great sense of humor.  That's typical of him. 

BL: Gene Lees quotes Paul as saying, ďI spent seventeen years trying to get Dave Brubeck laid.íĒ 

DB: Yeah, again typical. 

BL: Did Paul kind of liven things up with stuff or was he irritating (pause) or both? 

DB: (Laughs) Both. 

BL: Do you think Thelonious Monkís work and yours have any similarities other than being piano players and composers? 

DB: Well, Paul always thought there were great similarities.  I never listened to Thelonious when I was on the West Coast and rarely had time to really follow his music.  I hear a lot more of it now that heís gone and itís really advanced and really wonderful.

            I once had dinner with Thelonious and did a duet with him.  Itís on a Columbia album with different artists on each track.  It was called SUMMIT SESSION.  But at dinner, Thelonious didnít say a word to either my wife or myself.  So I think itís one of the most memorable dinners Iíve ever had.  Silence is golden. 

BL: There were just the three of you and he said nothing? 

DB: It was his wife too. 

BL: Did she speak? 

DB: Yeah, but he was the one who invited me. 

BL: Thatís a wonderful memory.  He was in Charlotte in the Ď60ís with Buddy Rich and others.  He played beautifully.  But in the middle of things he would get up, walk around, look at the back of the stage, then come back and play.  He was an original. 

DB: To say the least, but so talented. 

BL: I think itís wonderful Ė you mentioned that now that heís gone heís getting recognized.  I think itís so wonderful that you are being acknowledged now, and that you are continuing to work.  Do you work with John Snyder (the producer) very much? 

DB: Yes, we go back years to the DUETS album with Paul and even before that. 

BL: We started trying to get the newsletter together and finally found Chetís widow who said she would support us.  Doug Ramsey put us in touch with John Snyder since he had been Chetís manager and producer.  John and I played telephone tag for over a year and then he wrote me a letter and said, ďBetty, Iím going to be in Charlotte (thatís twenty miles up the road from my home) Christmas.  Call me there.   I had no idea he was from North Carolina. 

DB: Yeah, his wife is there. 

BL: Do you have a concluding comment about Chet? 

DB: If Iíve ever known somebody who really didnít let all his talent develop it would be Chet.  As much as he did, he could have done much more, and Iím saying that in a complementary way. 

(On July 24, 1995, Dave wrote: ďI have just completed a recording which John Snyder produced for Telarc. (DB DAVE BRUBECK  Young Lions & Old Tigers)  It features a series of guest artists.  One of the best tracks is with Roy Hargrove, who reminds me a bit of Chet in the way he approaches ballads.Ē)

 Daveís willingness to talk with CHETíS CHOICE demonstrates his generosity of spirit, egalitarianism, and support for music no matter how small the enterprise.

The December 1994 issue of Down Beat lists some of the accolades which have come to Brubeck in the last forty years: A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; Six honorary doctorates; The National Music Councilís American Eagle Award; The BMI Jazz Pioneer Award; Induction into the PLAYBOY Magazineís Jazz Hall of Fame; as well as the Down Beat Hall of Fame; and the White House has announced Brubeck as the recipient of the 1994 National Medal of Arts.
Many of the musicians from the Golden Age of Jazz have died in the last decade.  We are fortunate to have Brubeck composing, performing and showing us all how to live the good life.

(Editorís Note Ė As well as those albums noted in the article Dave Brubeck is also on Marian McPartlandís PIANO JAZZ with guest Dave Brubeck on Jazz Alliance; a two disc JAZZ COLLECTION CD from Columbia and a two disc reissue CD of the LIVE AT THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC with Gerry Mulligan which includes seven tracks either not issued or issued only in Europe.  All three of these should be on every jazz lovers list of musts.

            We cannot remember if it was Doug Ramsey or someone else who told it but the story is that anytime a fan addressed Paul as ĎMr. Brubeckí Dave asked that he sign that autograph ĎChet Bakerí.Given
Paul Desmondís proclivity for playing Chet Baker solos note-for-note from Chetís records, it makes a good story.