Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Emory University’s Historic
Dave Brubeck Festival

By Doc Lawrence
"I can't understand Russian, but I can understand body language."
               Dave Brubeck, after seeing Mikhail Gorbachev tapping his foot during
                a 1988 dinner performance in Moscow hosted by President Ronald Reagan.

ATLANTA-The death of Dave Brubeck, the legendary jazz pianist, composer and recording artist inspired media tributes here and in other countries. Dave Brubeck’s impact was particularly significant at Atlanta’s renowned Emory University where in 2002 he was the centerpiece of a five-day festival and symposium exploring his contributions to the arts and humanities.The Emory University Dave Brubeck Festival provided an overview of Brubeck's career, with a special look at his role in the civil rights movement, his musical compositions and style, and his impact on the history of jazz.

The Festival featured a variety of concerts and educational opportunities, including a two-day symposium, concerts by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in Glenn Memorial Auditorium and intimate workshops. Brubeck's breadth of composition spanning jazz, choral and classical genres offered Emory students and the Atlanta community a chance to listen to and learn from one of America’s most prolific composers.

One concert was introduced by H. Johnson, host of the long-running "Jazz Classics," on Atlanta’s WABE-FM. The jazz pianist and American music pioneer led his acclaimed quartet in a sizzling night of jazz, a tour de force of his music that entertained America and the world audiences since 1945 including performances with such legends as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and concerts for eight U.S. presidents.

At the time of his 2002 visit, Brubeck was still an active composer, writing jazz and classical music and in some cases crossing boundaries between these genres. Generous with his time, Brubeck hosted a jazz improvisation class, an afternoon with Emory students at the Carlos Museum that encouraged dialogue and was highlighted by a duet with one young woman who joined maestro Brubeck in playing “Take Five,” easily the most recognizable jazz composition ever. Atlanta resident Stephen Thomason was there and recalls the moment: “Brubeck was just hanging out,” he said, “enjoying everybody and invited this student to play the piano. He sat down beside her and joined in playing ‘Take Five’ all around her hands on the keyboard. It was so warm and thoughtful and to me was music from another world.”

Emory's historic five-day festival and symposium included The Dave Brubeck Quartet performing with the Emory Symphony Orchestra and Chorus joining in for such favorites as "Boogie One A.M," "All My Hope," "In Your Own Sweet Time,” plus Bach-inspired arrangements.

“If there's a heaven," Brubeck once said, "let it be a good place for all of us to jam together and have a wonderful, wonderful musical experience."

NOTE: Here is a sneak preview of the holiday TV special “An Old Fashioned Christmas” which airs December 22:

    Images courtesy of Emory University

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