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Take Two

December 17, 2012

Brubeck in NZ programme

Dave Brubeck in New Zealand, take two: during the weekend at Slowboat Records I found the programme for the Dave Brubeck’s 1960 New Zealand concerts. It is signed by the drummer Joe Morello, and inside is the above slip of paper listing the local support acts and the pieces they were to perform. Note that the MC is one of the stalwarts of jazz in public broadcasting, John Joyce, the Melbourne-born thrush Patti Brittain is featured vocalist, and that the arrangements were original. Brubeck on tour 1960In particular Lew Campbell, formerly with the Kiwi Concert Party and soon to be a member of the National Orchestra (ie, the NZSO), would have enjoyed writing challenging parts for Crombie Murdoch’s Octet. The late 1940s’ recordings by Brubeck’s Octet are well worth checking out for how adventurous his music was before settling on the Quartet format; Desmond is a member of the band, but the vibes and percussion player Cal Tjader is featured more prominently.

“Jazz is like writing,” Paul Desmond once said, “It can be learnt, but it can’t be taught”. When Desmond died in 1977, besides losing an inimitable saxophonist, jazz also lost one of its great potential memoirists. It would have been a masterly work of dry wit, and a great companion to George Melly’s British equivalent, the essential Owning Up (1965). The closest Desmond ever got to starting his memoir – potential title, How Many of You Are There in the Quartet? – was an article he wrote for the UK humour magazine Punch in 1973. Here is the opening and a link to the complete piece:

How Jazz Came to Orange County State Fair

DAWN. A station wagon pulls up to the office of an obscure motel in New Jersey. Three men enter — pasty-faced, grim-eyed, silent (for those are their names). Perfect opening shot, before credits, for a really lousy bank-robbery movie? Wrong. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, some years ago, starting our day’s work.

Today we have a contract (an offer we should have refused) for two concerts at the Orange County State Fair in Middletown. 2 pm and 8 pm. Brubeck likes to get to the job early.

So we pull up behind this hay truck around noon, finally locating the guy who had signed the contract. Stout, red-necked, gruff and harried (from the old New Jersey law firm of the same name), and clearly more comfortable judging cattle than booking jazz groups, he peers into the station wagon, which contains four musicians, bass, drums, and assorted baggage, and for the first and only time in our seventeen years of wandering about the world, we get this question: “Where’s the piano?” …

Read the rest here. In another image from the programme, the Quartet is featured arriving in India. From left, Paul Desmond, Mrs and Mr Joe Morello, Eugene Wright and Dave Brubeck. An advertisement hypes the forthcoming New Zealand concerts by musical satirist Tom Lehrer: “Princess Margaret Laughed and Laughed!”

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