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  • Courtesy of Brubeck Brothers Quartet

    The late Dave Brubeck, center, will be represented at the Brubeck Festival by his sons Chris, left, and Dan.

  • Keith Major

    Wynton Marsalis will be among the festival's headliners.

Dave Brubeck's legacies focus of festival

Published: Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9TICKET
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 11:26 am

It's not every day that the likes of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and composer Gunther Schuller grace the streets of Stockton.

Both will be there performing at the 2013 Dave Brubeck Festival, which is held at the University of the Pacific and its Brubeck Institute. The 12th annual festival begins Monday and continues through March 23.

Every year since it was established by the institute, the goal of the festival has been to explore and celebrate Brubeck's musical and philosophical ideas. And 2013 will be no regular year: It's the first since the jazz legend – best known for recordings of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Take Five" – died in December, a day shy of his 92nd birthday.

"That is why we're pulling out all the stops," said Simon Rowe, Brubeck Institute director. "There is no way to encompass a 70-year career with a one-week festival, but we're giving it a shot."

This year's program will pay tribute to Brubeck's jazz and civil rights legacies, and it may surprise some fans with a lesser-known aspect of his talent.

The impressive lineup includes Marsalis, appearing with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Also appearing will be renowned composer and jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell, who will perform with his quintet.

Composer and conductor Schuller, whose impressive résumé spans the classical and jazz music worlds, will introduce works and lead a symposium on jazz and Brubeck. Schuller, 86, a close friend of Brubeck,will give a talk Wednesday titled "The Birth of the Cool."

Next Friday, Schuller and Marsalis will talk about jazz leadership across time and the impact of the music on 20th century American culture.

The institute operates as both music presenter and educational entity. In addition to the festival, it offers a one-week summer jazz program and other outreach activities and a three-year, full-scholarship program in jazz performance for five musicians, who will perform Wednesday.

The institute also strives for more than musicianship. In Brubeck's words, its website explains: The institute "is not about jazz studies alone. … It is also about social and philosophical issues."

Brubeck was a fervent advocate for civil rights, acting in deed as much as word: He canceled concerts at venues that requested he perform with only white musicians.

His works had an element of social action in their DNA. His 1969 cantata "The Gates of Justice" plumbed the plight of blacks and Jews in America, and his cantata "Truth Is Fallen" from 1972 lamented the felling of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970.

Brubeck, born in Concord and raised near Ione, is inextricably linked with the Central Valley. He studied music at UOP, graduating in 1942. He donated his papers to the university 12 years ago, when the Brubeck Institute was born.

This year's festival will cast an eye toward a side of Brubeck most do not know: as a composer of sacred and choral works.

"My father wrote 18 oratorios and cantatas," said Chris Brubeck. "I think he had a natural gift for choral music."

In an interview, Chris Brubeck said his father's choral compositional style leans toward the tonal. At times, he said, the music reveals a decidedly jazzy sheen.

"Singers have told me they hear his big, wide jazz voicings in that music – they hear those jazz chords," said Brubeck. "With almost all of it, you can tell a jazz musician wrote it because there are areas of improvisation."

The drive to do choral work came to the fore when Brubeck was at the height of his popularity, in 1967. He disbanded his quartet to concentrate on large-scale choral and orchestral compositions.

"He chose mainly biblical texts. It was a way for him to get his philosophy out there," Chris Brubeck said. "He liked to use these biblical passages because of his being a big proponent of civil rights."

Today Brubeck's choral works remain largely unknown by the public, despite the fact that some of them have been widely performed. Passages from "To Hope! A Celebration" will be performed at a March 23 tribute concert along with his "The Light in the Wilderness," and "Pange Lingua Variations."

Those works will be performed by the San Francisco Choral Artists, led by longtime Brubeck manager and conductor Russell Gloyd.

Besides the choral pieces, the concert will feature Chris and Dan Brubeck and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet performing pieces from their fourth and most recent album, the 2012 release "Lifetimes," which encompasses the brothers' arrangements of their father's work.

It is the quartet's first recording devoted solely to Dave Brubeck's music.

"We wanted my father to know how much we admired him and his career," said Chris Brubeck. "So we gave the tunes fresh, updated arrangements."


When: Monday-March 23

Festival highlights

March 18: Brian Kendrick Big Band with Janiece Jaffe

March 19: Nick Fryer Trio

March 20: The Birth of the Cool Ensemble

March 21: Tom Harrell Quintet

March 22: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

March 23: The Brubeck Tribute Concert, featuring the San Francisco Choral Artists and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet

Where: Several locations at the University of the Pacific and elsewhere in Stockton.

Tickets: $8-$50

Information: (209) 946-3196;

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz..

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