Brubeck Festival Celebrates Creativity and Composition


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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005

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That’s music by the SF Jazz Collective, an allstar group including Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman, and Bobby Hutcherson. 

They’ll perform tonight as part of this year’s eclectic 8-day Brubeck Festival, which also features classical string quartets, big band jazz, cutting edge electronic music, even a ballet performance.

“It’s more than a jazz festival.  It’s so much more than jazz.”

Case in point, says the Brubeck Institute’s Executive Director JB Dyas, is this year’s theme… Creativity and Composition.  Featured will be the premiere of a new work by Dave’s son Chris Brubeck called “Mark Twain’s World – A Symphonic Journey with Genuine Thespians,” commissioned by the Stockton Symphony.

“It’s not a musical, it’s not an opera, it’s not an operetta.  It’s an orchestral piece for actors and orchestra and I said boy that’s innovative.  I wonder where he got that kind of inspiration?  Well it’s Chris Brubeck, of course the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and so I said we need to make this festival about composition. “

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Chris Brubeck’s “Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra” performed with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2000.  Brubeck’s ambitious new work will be performed by the Stockton Symphony with actors on Thursday and Saturday.

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On Friday, the Festival moves to Mills College in Oakland for a concert commemorating the octet Dave Brubeck formed while studying there with famed French composer Darius Milhaud.  As an excercise in arranging and orchestration, the groundbreaking group made this recording in 1946.

Again, the Brubeck Institute’s JB Dyas.

“And it’s a great record and it’s even modern by today’s standards and that was recorded some 60 years ago.  So we’re recreating that octet with the Brubeck fellows, who are the six Brubeck Fellowship recipients, plus two outstanding students from the Pacific Conservatory of Music.   And so I thought what a great idea to perform right there at Mills where it all started.”

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Joining the new Octet will be guest clarinetist Bill Smith, heard here on the original 1946 recording.  Friday’s concert will feature transcriptions from the record, along with new material arranged by Sacramento pianist Joe Gilman.

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Gilman’s participation in this year’s festival is extensive.  On Sunday, back at University of the Pacific in Stockton, his own trio (featuring two former Brubeck fellows) will perform selections from their new CD, “Time Again: Brubeck Revisited Volume Two.”

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Joe Gilman performing the Dave Brubeck composition “Summer Song.” JB Dyas calls Sunday night’s program “Dave’s Night” because it includes the only scheduled performance by Brubeck, along with bassist Christian McBride.  It also features a performance by Ballet New York of the work Brubeck composed in the 1960’s called “Points on Jazz.”

“It’s a 2-piano ballet and the two pianists that are playing are Joe Gilman  And then his prize 20-year-old student, the Brubeck Institute piano fellowship recipient Josh Gallagher.  So they’ll be tearing up the 2-piano music of Dave Brubeck while eight dancers are dancing around the pianos.”

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In 4 short years, the Brubeck Festival has evolved into a first-class celebration of music, learning, and the creative spirit of Dave Brubeck.  Still, some wonder whether a central valley city like Stockton can make it as a premiere jazz destination.  Not J.B. Dyas.

“And about 46 years ago there was a little town that nobody heard of called Monterey.  Now when you think of the town Monterey, you think of the Monterey Jazz Festival.  It’s a lofty goal but I would like to see that for the Brubeck Festival one day.”

The Brubeck Festival continues tonight with the SF Jazz Collective at University of the Pacific.  There’s a link to complete festival details at capradio dot org/arts.  There you can also listen to Jeffrey Callison interviewing Chris Brubeck from yesterday’s Insight program.