ArtSpoken & Reviews

Dave Brubeck's No 1 Fan and Dave's Funeral

Don Albert
12/27/2012 06:58:21

Jazzaholic by Don Albert: As the year draws to an end, I felt it was an appropriate time to write something about Dave Brubeck, who recently passed away.

Although I have over 40 CDs of Dave Brubeck in my collection, I was never a fanatical fan, but I certainly appreciate and admire what he did for jazz, and my CD collection would not be complete without ‘Jazz at Oberlin’.

My late friend Richard Epstein, on the other hand, was arguably Brubeck's greatest fan.

We were in New York to attend the Newport Jazz Festival - New York and I had heard about some professional and business people who were also musicians. They would gather for a monthly lunch and book a jazz group to entertain them. After the concert some of these doctors, surgeons and captains of industry would unpack their instruments and have a jam session.

It was 1975 and the lunch took place at the Drake Hotel. We heard the group was going to be the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Richard was wildly excited and we rushed down to the venue where he couldn’t wait to get to talk to Dave himself. I had a dreadful little camera but Richard asked me to take a picture of him and Brubeck. When we got back to Johannesburg Richard had the shot enlarged and put it on the ceiling above his bed so he could see it every night before going to sleep!

The whole Brubeck clan knew what a genuine fan he was, and how he really loved Dave and his music. Out of all the Brubeck fans around the world, Richard Epstein was No 1.

Of course when the Brubeck family came to South Africa in 1976 Richard was over the moon.

About that tour Darius told me the following: “A contract had been signed before the Soweto uprising but we managed to cancel performances in Durban where there was a whites only policy at the Playhouse. The cultural boycott had not been fully imposed, thank goodness, and so Dave escaped the listing that took place later.”

Richard’s widow gave me some of his programmes he had collected of the concerts he’d been to when he lived in England for a while. They included The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s January 1961 and November-December 1961 tours of Great Britain.

There is a quote in one saying “I like Dave Brubeck - he’s a perfectionist” (Charlie Parker).

So while the jazz world mourns the passing of Dave Brubeck, I can see the smiling face of Richard standing at the Pearly Gates welcoming his idol with a great big bear hug and humming Brubeck’s composition “In Your Own Sweet Way”.

About the funeral Darius said “Dave's funeral on Wednesday the 12th of December (12/12/12) was attended by family and very close associates, for example, members of his last quartet.

He had written instructions in 2004 detailing readings and music he wanted at his Catholic funeral service and Iola found the sacred eagle feather which the spiritual leader of the Suquamish people had given Dave when his " Earth is Our Mother" was performed in Seattle many years ago.

He was told that when he reached the 'other side' he should wave it, so the Indians who were already there would know he was one of them.

With music from his sacred works filling the church, scriptural readings, prayers and potent silences, we felt immersed in his spiritual life, regardless of where we stood individually on questions of faith. It was good to know that we had carried out Dave's wishes and the eagle feather was buried with Dave's ashes at Umpawaug Cemetery in Redding, CT.

After the holidays there will be a public memorial in Wilton on January 12, followed by a larger tribute from the music community in New York City on May 11 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I will post related announcements on face-book and various Brubeck websites.

Meanwhile, many, many thanks for your condolences, concern and sympathy. Cathy and I wish you all the best for the holidays.” Darius.

Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.