Opera Mississippi honors jazz icon Dave Brubeck

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Classically trained pianist Elizabeth Brubeck taught two sons to play the family piano before her youngest boy, David, kissed the instrument, tells the story, but she couldn’t have known then that he would be the one who would create such a name for himself in the world of jazz. that the Dave Brubeck Quartet would be revered a century after its birth in 1920.

Growing up in California, Dave Brubeck would develop the musical and compositional skills that would take him to the top of the jazz world by combining his mother’s classical tutelage with improvisation to become a leading performer of what is often referred to as cool jazz.

Knowing that Brubeck’s 100th birthday was last year, Opera Mississippi’s artistic director Jay Dean decided over a year ago to create a show to commemorate the iconic jazz musician.

“I like to create events that have meaning beyond a concert,” Dean said. “I like to create events that celebrate centenarians and birthdays. I like to find things that connect with people. The Sam Bruton Quartet is scheduled to perform at Duling Hall on October 18 as part of the Mississippi opera

Duling Hall Concert Series, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi, to present “Take 5: Tribute to Dave Brubeck.” The first performance was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020, but Opera Mississippi has postponed the celebration due to growing concerns over COVID.

Over the decades, Dave Brubeck has released dozens of albums and tracks, with “Take 5” breaking records as the best-selling jazz single in history. Photo credit Jack de Nijs Anefo

The quartet’s performance at the MP Bush Auditorium on the Jones College campus on September 24, 2021.

Dave Brubeck’s career and legacy

After learning the piano from her mother, who studied the instrument in England with Myra Hess, Dave brubeck began accompanying local jazz groups in 1933 and for Lions Club gatherings and Western-style swing dances at the age of 14. Brubeck was then a student at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he studied music from 1938 to 1942. Directed the school’s 12-piece orchestra.

Brubeck enlisted in the United States Army after graduation. However, he was spared the fight after his performance at a Red Cross show became a major success. During World War II he led a group in the United States Army which performed for troops serving in combat zones. Four years later, he returned from the front lines and continued his graduate studies at Mills College. He created the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951.

Brubeck’s musical catalog spans decades, with the artist considered a major figure in the West Coast jazz movement. He started releasing albums in the early 1950s and continued until the early 2000s. He recorded “Take 5” in 1959, which became the best-selling jazz single of all time. When the quarterback played “Take 5” during the concerts, the members left the stage after their respective solos until only drummer Joe Morello remained.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet consisted of Brubeck, Morello, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone and Eugene Wright on bass in his classical years when the band recorded the famous album “Take 5”.

Sam Bruton: “Monster at the piano”

Opera Mississippi’s artistic director, Dean, felt it was essential to assemble a group of musicians who could best reproduce the classical sound of the quartet.

Dean immediately knew that his colleague Sam Bruton was the perfect person to lead the quartet.

A flyer for Dave Brubeck Tribute Concert presented by the Sam Bruton Quartet
This promotional flyer for a previous performance features the four members of the Sam Bruton Quartet who pay homage to Dave Brubeck: Sam Bruton (top left), Dave Pello (bottom left), Larry Pernella (top center) and Pete Weiner (bottom right). Dave Brubeck (bottom center) and a photo of the quartet in action (top right) are also pictured. Nathan Sanders will be the percussionist for the October 18 show at Duling Hall. Courtesy of Jones College School of Art, Music and Performance

“The first time I performed with Sam Bruton was in 2003,” said Dean, who spent 30 years as director of orchestral activities at the University of Southern Mississippi and who has retired. as director of the USM music school last June. “We played a concert together, and that was the first time I had laid eyes on him and the first time I had heard him play. The first time I heard him play, I thought: “This guy is a fabulous pianist. Sam Bruton is a monster at the piano.”

Bruton is a jazz pianist, composer, and professor of philosophy at the University of Southern Mississippi. He forms the Sam Bruton quartet with Larry Pernella, the director of jazz studies at USM, on saxophone. It also includes USM instructor Dave Pello on double bass and Pete Weiner as the band’s drummer. Nathan Sanders, a doctoral student in musical arts at USM, plays the role of drummer for the performance of Duling Hall.

“Jay Dean first contacted me to put together the squad, and I contacted (these players) because of all the players I know in Mississippi – I played with a lot of them – it were the best at capturing the classic Brubeck sound, ”said Bruton.

The quartet prepared and practiced for over a year for the performance. To date, they have presented the show at the South Festival in Hattiesburg and the Natchez Festival of Music.

“Brubeck’s repertoire of compositions is quite extensive, so we had to make decisions about what tracks to make, how to do them and exactly how much to stay true to the original as well as add our own creative flourishes,” explained Bruton. “Brubeck’s music is a challenge. It is wonderful and inspiring. It’s creative and innovative in many ways, but it’s a challenge.

The quartet will release two new songs during the Duling Hall performance, which Dean says will wow attendees.

“They are going to have a great time,” Dean said. “They are going to hear one of the best jazz quartets in the world. I heard them do this concert at the South Festival in June, and it feels like you’re in New York or Paris. It’s just a top notch game. “

Mississippi Opera 2021-2022 Preview

Opera Mississippi, the nation’s ninth-longest-running opera company, is in its 76th season.

Tonight’s performance is just one of many scheduled for the new season. After “Take 5” is another centenary celebration: “Be my love: a tribute to Mario Lanza” on November 8, which will feature tenor singer Peter Lake and pianist Tyler Kemp in a cabaret-style performance.

Opera Mississippi’s first show in 2022 will be “The future of the stage”, a gala concert on Jan. 17 that will feature six winning singers from the John Alexander National Vocal Competition alongside the Mississippi Opera Chamber Orchestra.

February will see “Letters to Puccini”, a program featuring many of the opera composer’s most revered arias. The opening night will take place on February 21.

Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini described soprano singer Renata Tebaldi as having “the voice of an angel,” which became the inspiration for Opera Mississippi’s March 14 performance, “Angelo’s voice.” Soprano singer Betsy Uschkrat will perform in honor of Tebaldi, with Michael Bunchman at the piano.

“Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica”, to be premiered on April 23, is a comic opera set in 17th century Italy that revolves around a family listening and coming to terms with the reading of the late Gianni Schicchi’s will.

To complete the spring 2022 shows, it’s “Above the rainbow”, a tribute performance in honor of Judy Garland, a Hollywood star who left behind a number of memorable works. Melanie Gardner and the TK Trio bring Garland’s most renowned songs to life on stage during the May 16 performance.

General admission for the performance of “Take 5” on Monday, October 18 is $ 30. The concert starts at 7 p.m. Duling Hall requires proof of vaccination at least 14 days before the shows or a negative COVID-19 test result received within 72 hours of the events. Opera Mississippi asks all the guests, vaccinated or not, to wear masks during the performance. For more information on tickets or to find out more about upcoming Opera Mississippi shows in the current season’s lineup, call 601-960-2300 or visit operams.org.


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