The Clune Center of Wilton High School was filled to capacity on Saturday night, Jan. 12, as local residents piled in for a memorial concert to honor the life of Dave Brubeck.
Wilton had been home to Mr. Brubeck and his longtime wife, Iola, for more than 50 years, and his children — Dan, Michael, Chris, Darius, Catherine and Matthew — were advanced through the Wilton school system.
All musical compositions of Saturday night’s concert had been written by Mr. Brubeck, with the exception of Take Five, the famous David Brubeck Quartet single of 1959, which was written by Paul Desmond.
Speakers at the memorial concert included Mr. Brubeck’s longtime neighbor Bob Parisot, who discussed growing up at the end of Hill Brook Road, of listening to Mr. Brubeck rehearse, and of hanging out and playing music with Mr. Brubeck and his children, the boys being roughly his age.
The Brubeck house was built in the early 1960s, and Mr. Parisot said he was “mesmerized” in second grade by the steel-and-glass architecture of the new house, especially in such a traditionally quaint community.
“Now we had jazz and modern architecture next door,” he said.
Catherine Brubeck Yaghsizian talked about her special role as Mr. Brubeck’s only daughter, and of how she admired his quest to find answers to life’s greatest questions in all aspect of his life. She said his great talent “was not just his music but his soul.”
“He was unashamed of his questioning, his pursuit, his insistence of looking for answers,” she said.
Three of the Brubeck brothers performed on Saturday night, with Chris on bass and trombone, Dan on drums, and Darius on piano.
Three town choruses performed various pieces, including the choirs of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the Wilton Singers and members of the Wilton High School Madrigal Singers.
“Each of these groups have performed with and for Dave through the years, and it felt right to have them represent his beautiful choral writing,” said Tish Brubeck, Chris’s wife and an active participant in the concert’s arrangement.
Curt Welling, longtime family friend of the Brubecks, was the evening’s masters of ceremonies.
Simon Rowe, director of the Brubeck Institute at Pacific University, comically spoke of being “grilled” for his position by Dave Brubeck during his interview, which was conducted at Mr. Brubeck’s house only a year ago.
Upon leaving the house, Mr. Rowe said, he noticed a stack of CDs, which he recognized as a “gift” but found to be more of a “homework assignment” in preparing him for the mission of the Brubeck Institute: “Transforming lives through music and education.”
The institute has become esteemed for its “massive talent search” for gifted musicians, often pairing aspiring talents who are especially skilled at a young age, Chris said.
For more information on the Brubeck Institute, visit pacific.edu/Community/Centers-Clinics-and-Institutes/Brubeck-Institute.html.
Dr. Donald V. DeRosa, president of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., talked about Mr. Brubeck as a distinguished alumnus and friend. It was at the University of the Pacific where Mr. Brubeck and Iola first met.
Dr. DeRosa said he first met Dave in 1961, as a 19-year-old college sophomore attending American International College in Springfield, Mass.
He had managed that year to sign Mr. Brubeck to play a winter carnival event in Springfield, Mass., with fellow classmates.
The venue was filled to capacity, and Dr. DeRosa had panicked when, backstage, he was told by an official that there would be a fee for performances of copyrighted songs.
Mr. Brubeck then leaned over, sensing the anxiety of Dr. DeRosa and his friends, and said, “Don’t worry, boys, they won’t even know what I’m playing.” The audience laughed and applauded, and Dr. DeRosa said the incident was just one of many examples of Mr. Brubeck’s wonderful humanity.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143rd District) spoke of the joy Mr. Brubeck brought out with his unique style of jazz.
“When a musician like Dave attains that level of joy, it’s contagious,” she said.
“We’re very fortunate that Dave had so much joy to go around. And I think he was able to convey it to us so well and so often because he was true to his artistry, his convictions and his heart. As a musician, he had no fear.”
She also recognized Mr. Brubeck’s courage in challenging the state of jazz in his day by venturing complicated time signatures and bold new styles.
“He had the ability to see music and the world through a unique, individual lens, rooted in geography and experience and convictions formed early, a deeply personal mythology, and a stubborn refusal to be everyman,” she said.
A video made for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honor Mr. Brubeck received was also shown, with interview footage of Mr. Brubeck’s performances and discusson of his art.
Speakers also included First Selectman Bill Brennan, state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th District) and Grammy-nominated saxophonist Paul Winter. Performers included guitarist Mike DeMicco, singer Dianne Mower, cellist Eugene Friesen, and singer Mary Bozzuti-Higgins.
The night closed out with a collective performance of Take Five, the classic jazz piece that helped quickly launch Mr. Brubeck and his quartet to international stardom.