Brubeck Quartet concert recalls family legacy

It has been just under four years since Dave Brubeck died, and his legacy will be recalled with a concert featuring two of his sons Saturday, Nov. 5, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Wilton Library. The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will present The Brubeck Songbook in the room named for the jazz legend.

The Quartet — brothers Chris and Dan Brubeck, Mike DeMicco and Chuck Lamb — will be joined by New York jazz vocalist Hilary Kole and Michael Bourne, host of WBGO FM 88.3, the most listened-to jazz station in the New York City area.

The concert will be an opportunity for the Brubeck brothers to present not only their mother and father’s work but also the legacy of their contributions to music and Wilton, where they made their home.

“We’re celebrating their partnership,” Chris Brubeck said at his Wilton home last week of his parents, Dave and Iola, who were married 70 years at the time of Dave’s death. He added that many people may not be aware that Iola wrote the lyrics to Dave’s songs.

“People know Dad as a great composer, but only half know my mom was a great lyricist,” Chris said.

“In addition to raising six kids, she wrote the lyrics and came up with ways to market jazz,” Chris said. “With Dad out on tour so much — and it was not glamorous,” he said, Iola suggested bringing jazz concerts to college campuses to introduce the music to a younger audience and nurture new fans.

The idea for The Brubeck Songbook concert came from Michael Bourne. “Dave is the reason Mike is into jazz,” Chris said. Bourne heard Dave’s Strange Meadowlark when he was in college and it “caused an epiphany.”

Bourne, who also writes for DownBeat magazine, got to know Dave as well as Chris and Dan. He introduced Hilary Kole’s voice to Dave in the early 2000s and Dave proceeded to write songs for her and record with her.

Bourne presented the idea for the concert to the New Jersey Center of Performing Arts, where it will be performed after its “earthly” premiere in Wilton. It will then go to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y., and the Montreal Jazz Festival has expressed interest.

“There will be an arc to the story, starting with Dave as a cowboy,” Chris said of the concert, referring to his father’s pre-musical career. “It will arc from some of his earliest to his most recent work.”

Among the works that will be performed are Strange Meadowlark, Ode to a Cowboy, Traveling Blues, In Your Own Sweet Way, and Don’t Forget Me, one of the last songs Dave wrote for Kole, Chris said.

Also on the playlist is Summer Song, a ballad from The Real Ambassadors, a musical Dave and Iola wrote in the 1950s and 1960s with Louis Armstrong. “It got recorded but was only performed once, at the Monterey Jazz Festival,” Chris said. “We’ll do some of those tunes as well.”


Along with the international fame that came with Dave Brubeck’s career, there was a true sense of community with Wilton, where the Brubecks made their home. The fact they are performing in a room named for their father is not lost on Chris.

“We try to support the library,” he said, “and they are very supportive of us.” When they did the concert to open the Brubeck Room, Chris, Dan and Dave performed. “It makes sense for us to do it here.”

Chris recalled a number of projects the family worked on in Wilton. The first he could recollect was a concert in the mid-60s called Us and Them. “Ed McMahon was the emcee,” he recalled with a laugh. Held at the height of the Vietnam War, when relations between young people and their parents and grandparents were fraught, “it was to show the generations could get along. People performed with their kids.”

Chris remembered playing Bye Bye Blues with his father, Dan, and sister Cathy.

Fast forward to 2003, and a concert called Wilton WaterWorks that featured original work by Chris accompanied by the poetry, music, art, and science of children in the public schools. The Wilton WaterWorks Orchestra, made up of Wilton students, teachers and former faculty, was accompanied by the Wilton Singers, and singers from the high school, Middlebrook, and Cider Mill.

“So much of the community was involved,” Chris said.

In between there were many events, such as a benefit for Young Horizons, which brought cultural programs into the schools, with Dave Brubeck and Theodore Bikel in 1986, and benefits for Nursing & Home Care, now Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, and ABC House.

The Arts at St. Matthew’s presented An Evening with Dave Brubeck and His Trio in 1997 and a benefit performance for the Connecticut Composers Inc., featured Dave, Chris and Dan Brubeck, the Wilton Singers, and The Real Ambassadors, a high school jazz choir of the Arts Academy of Greater Hartford, named for Dave and Iola’s musical of the same name.

And then there are the Jazz in the Garden concerts at Weir Farm, where the Brubeck Brothers Quartet has performed for years.

The players

Chris and Dan Brubeck cut their first record together 50 years ago, and since then have played with their father, with different groups, and with their quartet.

A composer, Chris on Nov. 5 will play electric fretless bass and “a little trombone.” Chris was the New Haven Symphony Orchestra 2015 artist in residence when he conceived of Brothers in Arts, a World War II-inspired musical journey featuring jazz and classical music and cabaret vocals written with French musician Guillaume Saint-James. The piece was based on Dave Brubeck’s experiences as a GI in France and Saint-James’s father’s recollections as a young boy in France during the war.

Dan will be on the drums, where he has played with his father’s Dave Brubeck Quartet, his own group, the Dolphins, the Dan Brubeck Quartet, and as a soloist with many top jazz artists.

A native of Woodstock, N.Y., Mike DeMicco is guitarist and composer for the quartet. He has performed and recorded extensively. His CD, As the Sun Sets (Blue Forest Records) showcases eight original compositions.

Pianist, composer and percussionist Chuck Lamb has performed with the likes of the Woody Herman Orchestra, Béla Fleck, Dave Holland, Eddie Jefferson, Ginger Baker, Tom Harrell, and Ernestine Anderson. “As a member of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet for the last 10 years, Chuck has toured the world and most of the inner solar system,” his biography says.

Hilary Kole was the youngest singer to perform at New York’s Rainbow Room, where her career took off. She has performed at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, among other venues. In addition to recording with Dave Brubeck, she has worked with Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, John Pizzarelli, and many more.

Michael Bourne was working on his doctorate in theater at Indiana University when he discovered jazz and became a fill-in DJ at the school’s NPR station, WFIU. He ended up staying there 12 years, until 1984, when he came east and joined WBGO in Newark, N.J. He is also a senior contributor to DownBeat magazine.

Tickets to the concert are a must and may be reserved online at or by calling 203-762-3950. Admission is free, but a contribution is requested.