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Connecticut Senate honors famed jazz musician Dave Brubeck

Joining Senator Toni Boucher, front, at the state senate recently to honor the late Dave Brubeck are, from left, family friend Marian Wulffleff, daughter-in-law Tish Brubeck, Mr. Brubeck’s daughter Catherine Yaghsizian, and Wilton state Rep. Gail Lavielle.

Joining Senator Toni Boucher, front, at the state senate recently to honor the late Dave Brubeck are, from left, family friend Marian Wulffleff, daughter-in-law Tish Brubeck, Mr. Brubeck’s daughter Catherine Yaghsizian, and Wilton state Rep. Gail Lavielle.

Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) joined her colleagues in the state senate this week in honoring legendary jazz musician and Wilton resident Dave Brubeck. Ms. Boucher spoke on the senate floor. Included here are some of her remarks.

“It is with great pride that I rise to have us all pay special tribute today to a celebrated music legend. Not only was Dave Brubeck world renowned, he was a resident of Wilton, the state of Connecticut and a dearly loved and admired citizen of the world. A true home town and home state hero.

“Dave Brubeck was the quintessential American jazz composer and musician. He brought jazz into the mainstream and was known to make very serious music — swing.

“After serving with Patton in the European Theater, Brubeck toured with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. Brubeck performed with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. Performed for eight presidents, several kings, heads of state and Pope Paul II.

“Brubeck was honored with seven doctorates, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, two Kennedy Center for the Arts Awards in 2007 and 2009, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Dave Brubeck has a place in both the National and International Hall of Fame and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

“A jazz giant, his ‘Take 5’ was voted one of the top 500 recordings of the century. Dave Brubeck changed our society for the better and truly made a difference. Music communicates what lies deep inside of us. It transcends language and cultural barriers that divide us and helps us find common ground. Dave did this in such a profound way.

“He broke the segregation barrier by being one of the first to include black musicians in his jazz band and influenced the freedom movement in the United States and the world at a troubled time in our history. A deeply spiritual man and a converted Catholic, Dave also composed ‘The Gates of Justice’ for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to reflect the shared bonds of the Jewish and the African-American communities, particularly in the fight for civil rights.

“With his wife Iola, he composed a jazz musical entitled, ‘The Real Ambassadors.’ It illustrated the important role that musicians play as unofficial ambassadors for their countries. In collaboration with Louis Armstrong in the late 50s early 60s, Brubeck’s jazz musical addressed the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the music business, America’s place in the world during the Cold War, the nature of God, and a number of other themes.

“When the Town of Wilton celebrated Dave’s 80 birthday there was a cake covered with 80 candles. He played the piano for 90 minutes straight. And students from the Hartford School for the Arts surprised him on stage with their performance of ‘The Real Ambassadors.’ He received the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy for offering an American “vision of hope, opportunity, and freedom” through his music.

“These historic and groundbreaking achievements rested on the foundation of the amazing personal relationship and partnership that this great man had with his wonderful wife Iola. For all of this Dave Brubeck remained a humble, warm, easygoing man whose ready smile and sense of humor put everyone at ease. His love of his wife, his family, his church and Wilton was keenly felt by all that knew him. He and Iola spent a long evening at JFK with my husband some time ago when a snow delay prevented them from taking off for their flight to London.

“They spoke of how proud they were of the Wilton school system that they supported. Dave made particular mention of the pride he took in his son Chris’s work as a founding member of the Wilton Education Foundation. The first time we met this very famous musician was at his home on Halloween Night, 1983. Our children were small and didn’t know anyone. Our neighbor told us about Dave’s remarkable trick or treat house. We took the children to Dave’s home. It was usually decorated to the hilt. But this year there were no decorations.

“As I recall Dave just came back from a world tour, yet he and his wife Iola warmly invited our crowd in and treated everyone to goodies and delighted everyone by entertaining the crowd as only he knew best — by playing the piano. It was a beautiful and rare moment that we cherish forever.

“We later found out, Dave shared his gift and love of music with young people all the time. He was a role model not just for his own children and mine, but to countless music students around Connecticut and all over the world. Sharing your passion and love of something while teaching another may be the greatest legacy any one of us could hope to achieve. Dave Brubeck passed away just before his 92nd birthday. He was getting ready to write another album. Almost 92 and still going!

“His musical masterpieces will forever endure and influence the lives of his worldwide fans and music lovers everywhere. Let us all stand and recognize his family that honor us today with their presence in recognition and gratitude of Dave’s immense achievements and contributions and as one of our state’s and America’s greatest ‘Real’ ambassadors of all time.”

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