Dave Brubeck’s life’s work to reside at Wilton Library

WILTON — A standing-room-only crowd cheered Saturday evening at Wilton Library when Executive Director Elaine Tai-Lauria announced that in this year marking Dave Brubeck’s centennial, his vast collection of musical recordings, correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, legal and business documents and other memorabilia will now be housed at Wilton Library.

The library and the family of the late jazz legend announced Jan. 11, that the collection, formerly housed at University of the Pacific in California, will make its way to the library where it will be kept in a dedicated room. The announcement was made at the beginning of one of two concerts that night that brought Dave and Iola Brubeck’s sons — Darius, Chris and Dan — together for Brubecks Play Brubeck. Joining them was saxophonist Dave O’Higgins.

“It was thrilling to see the audience’s reaction to the announcement,” Chris Brubeck said after the first concert. Noting it was Tai-Lauria’s vision to bring the collection to the Brubecks’ hometown he added, “She kept saying everyone would be excited, and she was right!”

“They’d be very happy with the collection being here,” Dan Brubeck said. “They did not want their archives to be put into boxes.”

“Dave was always interested in a living legacy,” Chris said. “He was wooed by Yale and the Smithsonian … but what could better be an emotional center of the archives than where they lived.”

In announcing the agreement between the library and the Brubeck family, Tai-Lauria explained that she floated the idea to Chris and his wife Tish when she learned the collection would be leaving the University of the Pacific.

“Chris and Tish in their ever gracious Brubeck manner listened and brought it to the family,” she said.

From the stage, Chris Brubeck called it the “right dream at the right time. It’s synergy and harmony and I know my parents would be pleased.”

At that point, the band launched into one of Dave Brubeck’s signature hits, “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” followed by a set that showed their father’s range including “For Iola” and “The Duke,” finishing up with “Take Five,” the piece Brubeck is probably best known for.

In a statement issued for the announcement, Tai-Lauria said, “The Brubeck family and the library have had such a wonderful, long-standing relationship, that it is fitting all this important documentation be housed here. The library also is the home of the Wilton History Room, so the synergy is perfect for the collection to reside here.”

Dave Brubeck’s eldest son Darius said that after “months of behind-the-scenes careful work” he had “every confidence this will be a great resource.”

The Brubeck Collection will be available for research by appointment to musicologists, historians, jazz aficionados, and the public, as well as an online presence for digital research. The room will have a study desk/listening station, computer for access to digital recordings, and all the cataloged materials, which include thousands of albums, manuscripts and notes, and photographs — essentially one of the premier jazz collections in the world.

Wilton Library joins other prestigious institutions housing major jazz collections, including Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie’s at the Smithsonian and Benny Goodman’s at Yale University.

Dave Brubeck’s career spanned seven decades — from the 1940s to the early 2010s, and his music transcended jazz to the mainstream and far beyond as he composed ballets, musicals, a mass, and large-scale orchestrations.

He embarked on his career in 1947 and by 1954 his portrait was on the cover of Time magazine. His seminal 1959 “Time Out” album was the first jazz album to sell a million copies. Brubeck played to fans all over the world, making many appearances at Newport, Kool jazz festivals, Monterey, Concord and several performances at the White House.

Brubeck received the Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend Award in 2007, and on his 89th birthday, in 2009, he was a Kennedy Center honoree, an award given for “exemplary lifetime achievement.” He said that while the award was a great personal honor, it was also significant “that this honor recognizes the importance of jazz in American culture.”

Dave met his future wife, Iola Whitlock, while they were students at the College of the Pacific. She became his collaborator in life and in music, raising six children and writing myriad lyrics for his compositions. Dave Brubeck died in 2012; Iola Brubeck died in 2014.

The collection will be the second physical Brubeck connection to the library. The Brubeck Room, a 150-seat performance space that was created specifically for concerts, lectures, and authors, was named for him and his family in 2006 during the library’s major expansion. It is graced by a sculpture of Dave Brubeck, created by former Wilton sculptor Peter Rubino.

Wilton Library is a nonprofit library association in Wilton. For more information, visit www.wiltonlibrary.org or call 203-762-3950. The library is at 137 Old Ridgefield Road in the heart of Wilton Center.