Chasing Music: Dave Brubeck at the Blue Note

I needn’t say it, do I? The Legend is back.

This will probably not be as long of a write-up as usual, if only on the account of my own extreme exhaustion, but three hours of sleep or zero hours of sleep, there are just certain things that you have to see. And those particular events – screw the camera. Seriously. Don’t even bother taking pictures. You just have to see it. See and remember.

The very first time I saw Dave Brubeck was, in fact, at the Blue Note, and this was, I think, the first time since Christmas that I’ve come back to the club. Work, business, books, and other obligations had kept me from that lovely, music-filled sardine can of a club (sorry, Blue Note management but…seriously, 86 some tables and your patrons will thank you for the leg room). And, at the time I saw Dave, I was just taken aback that this guy, who had played with the best of them and then some, who is now 90 and needing some assistance walking, can sit down at the piano, and be every bit as lively an emcee as any of the whippersnappers coming in the scene today.

Tonight, I watched Dave more closely, as he went from Sunny Side of the Street to It’s a Raggy Waltz, and understood exactly what about Dave Brubeck is so entrancing. He hadn’t changed at all in the way he plays his music, and after so many years, after watching the world change and change again, he still maintains the same energy. We all have that little “zen spot” – that place in our lives where we feel most at home, and for Dave Brubeck, it’s sitting at the keys of a baby grand. That’s his zen spot, and he had known it all his life.

Dave didn’t use the mic tonight, for the most part, as he spoke. From telling stories about his songs, to reciting his wife Iola’s lyrics to some of his music, he didn’t need to use the mic. The audience, all hundred-and-change of us, crammed into a tiny space, would quiet down and hang onto his every word. The bartender would even stop mixing ,and the waitstaff would stop and listen too. And still, he would segue into a lovely solo, full of spirited meanders, then suddenly stop, peek over the baby grand at his bandmates, smile, and ask, “What do you want to play?”

Yes, the man is 90, and still a ham. :)

It’s that tried-and-true cheekiness, and the knowledge that he hadn’t changed, that gives people who watch him a solid impression that the clock had turned back half a century for the hour that Dave played. He speaks of the same things as our grandparents would speak of, and he would season it with music that speaks to every generation. The audience tonight had, literally, every age group under the sun in the house, from someone whom Dave knew in his youth, to someone fresh out of high school, and it’s a nigh guarantee that the Brubeck magic was felt by all, if the standing ovation at Take Five is any sign of it.

It’s amazing to see him, it really is, and it’s even more amazing to hear him talk about performing with all four of his sons in the coming future. I can only hope that I will see him back at the Note again, and hear of him celebrating his hundredth birthday in as good a spirit as he had tonight, and at every show he plays.