This week’s Monterey Jazz Festival is the first since the death of Dave Brubeck, the legendary jazz pianist-composer who midwifed the event’s birth nearly 60 years ago. The festival will mark Brubeck’s passing Friday night when the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra performs a specially commissioned tribute.
I had the opportunity to see Brubeck perform several times, both in Monterey and on his frequent visits to Stockton, where he attended then-College of the Pacific in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, met his wife Iola and began his performing career. University of the Pacific is now home to the Brubeck Institute, whose resident student ensemble performs at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Night Club. The festival lineup also includes a Brubeck panel discussion at 2 p.m. Saturday in Dizzy’s Den and a performance by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
I interviewed Brubeck three times between 2000 and 2004 and will post these archival items in the run up to Monterey. Here is the last in the series.
Dave Brubeck traveled across Europe in composing ''Millennium Intervals.''
One passage was inspired by the death of a friend in Norway, another by the rise and fall of a siren on a German highway, a third by a drive through a magnificent Swiss valley.
But there's nothing Continental about the 10-minute work's true subject matter.
''It's really about Stockton and Ione and Concord and growing up there,'' Brubeck said.
''It's a completely unapologetic – if anything, very proud – recollection of different memories of Stockton and his life,'' said Stockton Symphony conductor Peter Jaffe.
The orchestra commissioned ''Millennium Intervals'' and plays it for the first time Thursday. Brubeck won't perform during the concerts at Delta College's Atherton Auditorium, but is expected to attend at least one of them.
The roots of the composition lie in Dave and wife Iola Brubeck's 1999 decision to donate their personal papers to University of the Pacific. Jaffe later was asked to join the Dave Brubeck Collection Advisory Board, a group of Pacific and community representatives charged with fostering development of the archives and the Conservatory of Music's Brubeck Institute.
Jaffe approached Brubeck last winter about writing a composition for the orchestra. ''I never thought I'd be writing a piece for the Stockton Symphony,'' Brubeck said.
''Millennium Intervals'' took shape gradually during 2000. In notes written for the symphony, Brubeck said he began composing the piece last January in Florida. Its title reflects not only the new millennium but two distinct definitions of the word interval.
There is its common usage, denoting a time between events.
"I was born and raised in the interval between the two world wars,'' Brubeck writes.
Then there is its musical application, where an interval is the difference in pitch between two tones. Brubeck employed the intervals most often found in be-bop jazz.
The work opens, Brubeck writes in its notes, ''with the tones of the carillon chimes that struck the hours on campus at College of the Pacific when I was a student.''
Learning of his friend's death in Oslo inspired Brubeck to write a dirge-like passage. He was stuck in traffic in Berlin, Germany, when a siren roared past, and decided to incorporate that.
''I wrote most of it in the back of a car on tour,'' Brubeck said. ''You just write what you can where you are.''
Switzerland's valleys led Brubeck to recall California's Central Valley, and ''Millennium Intervals'' takes a nostalgic turn. He even incorporates the university hymn, ''Pacific Hail.''
Jaffe noted that after Brubeck composed ''Millennium Intervals,'' he turned it over to associate Russell Gloyd to orchestrate. Seventy musicians will perform the work.
”It's very fascinating,” Jaffe said. “I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of impression it makes.''
So is its composer.
''I'm the one who's going to be on the edge of my chair,'' Brubeck said.
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