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06 September 2000

The Cinncinnatti Enquirer

Jazz's Dave Brubeck still 'cooling' it at 80

Wednesday, September 06, 2000

He's made music for more than half a century. In his 80th year, jazz great Dave Brubeck shows no sign of slowing down.

“Oh! I've been to Europe three times in two months!” says the founding father of West Coast Cool Jazz and California native, from his home in Wilton, Conn.

He'll appear Friday through Sunday with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops.

On his birthday, Dec. 6, he'll be performing with his sons and the London Symphony Orchestra. In January, the jazz pioneer will be on a press tour with Ken Burns for Jazz, a 19-hour special airing Jan. 8-31 on PBS.

Besides inventing a new jazz language, Mr. Brubeck is a serious composer who has written 10 sacred works, including music for a Papal Mass by Pope John Paul II.

The Enquirer asked the composer of “Take Five” — five questions.

Question: Has anything surprising ever happened onstage with Erich Kunzel?

Answer: I surprised him! It was the premiere of (the oratorio) Light in the Wilderness (in 1968). I was so nervous, I didn't know how I was going to keep from falling off the (piano) bench.

There's a long introduction. All of a sudden, I knew I'm gonna faint unless I play the piano. I struck a chord with both hands, as loud as I could, to save myself. It scared Erich to death. He looked at me in terror!

 Q: Mr. Kunzel says he had never heard of you before your first concert together in 1965. What did you know about him?

A: Nothing! But we had a lot to discover (laughs). After that concert, we went to Europe with the CSO and chorus from Miami University. There were two airplanes full of people . . . so you can imagine this Cincinnati invasion of Europe. It was a nightly bash all over Europe.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: This week, my new solo album came out (One Alone on Telarc). While we're in Cincinnati, we'll record another album. I've written 12 new tunes for the Quartet.

Q: How have you kept your career strong for more than five decades?

A: I love what I'm doing — or else you wouldn't put yourself through all this! The travel is the killer.

 Q: What would you like to be remembered for someday?

A: Everything! (laughs) Everything from Cool Jazz to oratorios, ballets, symphonies, pieces. I love the piece we did for Louis Armstrong (“Summer Song”), for The Real Ambassadors.

The last piece I wrote was called “Don't Forget Me.” It was just a piano piece. Maybe my wife (Iola) will write words for it. Maybe it'll become a choral piece. It's a nice piece.