All That Jazz & More: Brubeck performs with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra | Local News
VALDOSTA – At the age of 7, Chris Brubeck dreamed of playing baseball.
What else could we expect from the son of legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck?
“Willie Mays was my hero and I dreamed of becoming a baseball player,” said Chris Brubeck. “But it was obvious to my parents that I was blessed with an abundance of musical talent and that was gently nurtured in our musical home. Not in a demanding way, but me and my siblings saw some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians rehearsing and hanging out with us. It seemed like a joyful way to live life. Four of us out of six “kids” became musicians with very big careers. It must have been something thing in the water in the hills above San Francisco.”
Chris Brubeck brings this abundance of talent and musical heritage to South Georgia this weekend to perform with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.
“The VSO is so excited to perform with Chris Brubeck,” said Howard Hsu, conductor and musical director. “Chris often performs his musical arrangements with a trio – his band Triple Play – or a quartet – Brubeck Brothers Quartet. His arrangements of the same orchestral music are excellent because they give the orchestra a lot to do but also help the orchestra to sound good, even when you have musicians like me who don’t play jazz or blues.
“Now we’re part of the band. I never thought I’d get the chance to play ‘Take Five’ but soon we’ll be out there with Triple Play.”
Triple Play has a double meaning, Brubeck said.
On the one hand, the group Triple Play includes Joel Brown on guitar, Peter Madcat Ruth on harmonica and Brubeck.
Brubeck has been called a triple threat because he plays fretless electric bass, bass trombone, and piano.
Okay, maybe he’s more than a triple threat.
“I also compose and arrange almost all of the orchestral music that we perform. Plus, I sing,” Brubeck said in an interview with the Valdosta Daily Times. “So Triple Play does everything from jazz to classical to acoustic funk and can also split into three-part harmonies. We’ve often been told that we’re great fun to watch and listen to. We kind of challenge categorization. We can’t deny my musical heritage and we love the tunes so we play several Dave Brubeck compositions like ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk,’ ‘Koto Song,’ ‘Polly,’ ‘Take Five,’ ‘Travelin’ Blues’ and ‘Unsquare Dance’ as well as Triple Play originals.”
While thinking of Major League Baseball as a child, Chris Brubeck never denied his musical talents or his legendary father. Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012, was a legendary jazz pianist and composer and is considered a leader in the “cool jazz” genre. His works are classic jazz standards.
But Chris Brubeck planned to be a rock musician and he pursued that genre.
“My initial plan was to create a super musical and original rock band,” Brubeck said. “My dad had already risen to the top of the jazz world and I thought creative rock was my destiny. So Madcat and I made albums for RCA, Atlantic and Columbia that all got good reviews and good feedback, but which never broke.
“We were recording with our highly skilled band and then also worked with Luther Vandross, Bob James, Randy Brecker, Steve Cropper, Tower of Power. We were very close, but there were corporate shenanigans from Columbia and of the band, Sky King. , broken up.”
Chris accepted an invitation to play bass with his father’s quartet.
“By osmosis, I learned a lot playing with my father’s band,” Brubeck said. “In addition to the hundreds of concerts I gave in his quartet, I also performed in many of the premieres of his great choral and orchestral works. I learned the skills to orchestrate and arrange and made many numerous charts for the Cincinnati Pops and the Boston Pops.”
The skills he acquired working with his father developed into writing concertos for The Canadian Brass, Grammy-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, Time for Three, a double concerto for Jamie Laredo and Sharon Robinson.
In March, the New England Conservatory of Music will premiere “50”, a commission to celebrate the acclaimed wind ensemble’s 50th anniversary.
“I also wrote a piece with my dad called ‘Ansel Adams: America’ where we project 101 photographs above the orchestra as he plays a symphonic poem we wrote specifically to accompany the legendary photographs,” Brubeck said. “It’s the tip of the iceberg of many orchestral pieces that have occupied me over the years.”
Performing with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Brubeck and Triple Play will create two new orchestral arrangements based on “great songs that have been written before but never orchestrated,” he said.
“One track, ‘Travelin’ Blues,’ was written by my dad and my mom, Iola, wrote the lyrics. We recorded it with Dave on piano, me on bass, and Joel Brown singing the track and playing bass. guitar, plus Madcat on our ‘Triple Play Live recording at Zankle Hall. It was a live record with great playing from everyone, plus my dad, Joel’s dad Frank Brown, who’s a great clarinetist, s joined us.
“It turned out to be the last recording Dave Brubeck ever made. We are honored that he played with us; he was very old but in great shape. Each piano solo was brimming with wisdom and musicality. .”
Triple Play wrote the other song while driving to a concert in Thomasville.
“We actually wrote it in the afternoon in our rental van and had the audacity to sing the new song that night,” Brubeck said. “‘The Road to Thomasville’ is such a special song that they invited us to play several times and gave us the ‘key to the city’ as a thank you.”
As with most performers in the age of COVID-19, Brubeck and Triple Play have traveled few roads in the past two years.
Before the coronavirus, “we had played with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in Georgia. This concert led to this performance in Valdosta because there are people in your orchestra who also play in the Albany Orchestra and thought our gig was so much fun that the Valdosta audience would really like the collaboration, too.
“But we also played with dozens of orchestras in America and played twice with the Chinese Orchestra of Singapore and also made a great record with them. It was such a hit with the public that they asked us to come back a few years later.
“This foreign audience went crazier about our American style of music than most Americans. They just ate it up and we had a ball with their musicians playing all these wild instruments from our perspective. It was a terrific experience.
“As a trio without an orchestra, we have performed all over America, including the Monterey Jazz Festival and also the Kennedy Center in Washington DC”
And come Saturday, February 12 with an orchestra in Valdosta.
Chris Brubeck and Triple Play perform with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 12, Whitehead Auditorium, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. More information: Call VSU College of the Arts Outreach at (229) 333-2150 or visit www.valdostasymphony.org.