Joe Gilman’s Tribute to Dave Brubeck

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The world mourns the loss of our beloved teacher and mentor Dave Brubeck this week. 

I am not a member of Dave’s biological family. If you were to ask my parents, I may as  well have been. Dave was my musical father and role model. I was introduced to Dave’s music by chance on a televised program in 1976 on PBS. It was a 25th anniversary reunion tour of the DBQ. Of course I fell in love with “Take Five” and immediately went to Tower Records and purchased “Time Out”. Other than “Charlie Brown Christmas”, this was my first exposure to jazz. 

Jazz piano lessons began immediately. I practiced “Take Five”, “Blue Rondo”, “Three to Get Ready” et. al. for months. Several more Brubeck records followed. By 1978 I was entirely hooked on jazz. Thank you Mr. Brubeck.

After devoting my life to music as an educator for 20 years, I serendipitously began a series of positions at the Brubeck Institute, including instructor, Director of the Fellowship Program, Artistic Director of the Summer Jazz Colony, and Artist-in-Residence of the Institute.

To the greater general public, Dave was that hip and cerebral jazz cat from the 1950’s who recorded “Take Five”. A jazz icon. To many jazz musicians, Dave was a fine composer, exceptional bandleader, innovative pianist, and craftsman of brilliantly produced acoustic jazz recordings. A jazz master. To those more familiar with Dave’s extended body of work, they will tell of his tremendous humanitarian efforts across the globe and his bandleading of some of the first military and commercial racially integrated jazz ensembles. In my unique position with the Brubecks and at the Institute, I would like to tell you more.

More than any other jazz musician in the past 100 years, Dave Brubeck has created a legacy. A legacy that even arguably surpasses Ives, Gershwin, Bernstein, and Ellington. A cultural legacy. A legacy of connections. A legacy that transcends generational, cultural, and geographical boundaries.

Here are the names of all of the Brubeck Fellows over the past ten years. There have only been 37 students. Perhaps you recognize some of the names. You should if you appreciate jazz from the younger generation; Justin Brown, Joe Sanders, Tommy Morimoto, Fabian Almazan, Anthony Coleman II, Tobin Chodos, Mark Zaleski, Scott McGinty, Sean McGinty, Dominic Thiroux, Hayden Hawkins, Josh Gallagher, Peter Spear, Colin Stranahan, Glenn Zaleski, Lucas Pino, Brian Chahley, Chris Smith, Cory Cox, Ben Flocks, Javier Santiago, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Zach Brown, Adam Arruda, Corey Fonville, Noah Kellman, Nick Frenay, Colin McDaniel, Sam Crowe, Bill Vonderhaar, Alec Watson, Tree Palmedo, Rane Roatta, Tom Kelly, Malachi Whitson, Adam Goldman, and Paul Bloom.

The Dave Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony has now enrolled over 150 students between the ages of 14-18. There are far too many to list here, but a few notables include Grace Kelly, Eldar Djangirov, Matt Marantz, Ben Van Gelder, and Marcus Gilmore. 

It is only through Dave Brubeck’s legacy that these young people met and created beautiful music together before moving on to all parts of the world to begin to shape the musical landscape of the 21st century. 

My children, who are now 6 and 11, are still unfamiliar with the music of Dave Brubeck. But to them “Brubeck” means a cool Summer hang in Stockton where those high school kids from around the country with unbelievable talent make remarkable music together, and then travel back home to share the experience with their friends. This is possible only through the legacy of Dave Brubeck. “Brubeck” means more than jazz.

Believe me, when you hear any number of the most successful jazz acts in the world today, you are hearing a onetime Brubeck Fellow or Colonist, or an innovation created by Dave Brubeck in the last 50 years.

Because of the Brubeck legacy, these fellows and colonists of awe inspiring talent and dedication were able to meet, play, and be mentored by their idols, a list which now includes but is not limited to;

Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Robert Glasper, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Werner, Fred Hersch, Darius Brubeck, Geoff Keezer, Danilo Perez, Taylor Eigsti, Donald Brown, Mark Levine, Gerald Clayton, Orrin Evans, Benny Green, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Yahel, Bobby Militello, Jimmy Heath,  Bob Mintzer, Yosvany Terry, Bobby Watson, Bennie Maupin, Greg Tardy, Jim Snidero, Anton Schwartz, Vincent Herring, Miguel Zenon, Stacy Dillard, Donny McCaslin, Walter Smith III, Chris Cheek, Dayna Stephens, Willie Akins,  Ingrid Jensen,  Ralph Alessi, Brian Lynch, Marvin Stamm, Mike Rodriguez, Gilbert Castellanos, Ambrose Akinmusire, Sean Jones, Michael Moore, Robert Hurst, Jeff Chambers, Rufus Reid, Marcus Shelby, Matt Penman, Essiet Essiet, Ray Drummond, Larry Grenadier, Harish Raghavan, Willem von Hombracht, Randy Jones, Ndugu Chancler, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Joe Chambers, Lewis Nash, Dan Brubeck, Eric Harland, Jeff Ballard, Karriem Riggins, Montez Coleman, Akira Tana, Matt Slocum, Chris Brubeck, Conrad Herwig, John Fedchock, Wayne Wallace, Steven Erquiaga, Anthony Wilson, Paul Bollenback, Cleo Laine, Dena DeRose, Bill Smith, Christian Tamburr, Madeline Eastman, Michael Weiss, and the best talent in the San Francisco Bay area.

And not only did these fine mentors influence the colonists and fellows. Through the legacy of Dave Brubeck and the cross fertilization of ideas of creative people coming together, these world class artists themselves have become energized with a feeling of renewal and hope for a brighter future in our music and in our world by knowing that there are talented, passionate, loving, and caring youth ready to carry the torch and help to find new journeys, stories; new fusions of sounds of the worlds cultures. How many times have I heard from these great artists; “what’s happening at Brubeck?” “what  are the Brubeck fellows up to this year?” “Can you give me the number of that kid from two years ago?” 

Only through Dave Brubeck’s legacy would some of the greatest educational organizers in the world; JB Dyas, Michael O’Daniel, Steve Anderson, Andrew Schniederman, Simon Rowe, Nick Fryer, and great friends such as Bart Marantz, come together with Dave’s guidance and inspiration to build a hub of creative connectivity at the University of the Pacific.

My wife, who is from a rural community in Southern Thailand called Nakhorn si Tammarat, had never heard of Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Gershwin, or Ellington, but she knew Dave Brubeck. Dave’s legacy transcends cultural borders and brings happiness, joy, and love to our neighbors around the world.

Although Dave has passed from this life and into eternal life, his works and messages are clear for the rest of us to follow. Bring people together, build communities, challenge the accepted, and affect social change through music and creativity.

Thank you again Dave.

Joe Gilman 


2 thoughts on “Joe Gilman’s Tribute to Dave Brubeck

  1. Thanks so much for writing this, Joe. That first Summer Colony was the first time I had considered the feasibility of becoming a professional musician. It upped my commitment to the music exponentially. None of that would have been possible without Dave.
    I was dismayed that none of the obits I read about Dave included his work with the Institute. However large a part it’s played in the contemporary development of jazz, it’s just another part of one man’s large, large legacy. Thanks again, Dave.

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