Brubeck Brothers Honor Dave Brubeck at Playboy Jazz Festival


Sons Honor Dad on Father’s Day at Playboy Jazz Festival

By Stephen K. Peeples

Playboy Jazz Festival logo

Anchored by two of the late Dave Brubeck’s four sons, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet will pay tribute to their legendary father’s music and legacy at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16.

Known to fans as the BBQ, Daniel Brubeck (drums) and Chris Brubeck (bass and trombone), joined by Mike DeMicco (guitar) and Chuck Lamb (piano), will feature tracks from the album “LifeTimes” in their first Playboy Jazz appearance as a group.

The quartet arranged and recorded “LifeTimes” as a tribute to Dave and released it 2012, just months before he died on Dec. 5, a day shy of his 92nd birthday. “LifeTimes” wound up being the 7th most-played album of 2012 on the JazzTimes chart.

Brubeck Brothers ‘Carrying the Family Banner’ at the Playboy Jazz Festival

Brubeck Brothers QuartetNow, said Chris Brubeck, “It’s the summer when everyone kind of wants to reflect on Dave and what he meant to them. We’ll be carrying the family banner.”

Chris and Daniel Brubeck’s bandmates have also been a part of the Brubeck musical family a long time. In the album’s liner notes, Chris refers to DeMicco and Lamb as “honorary brothers.”

“Chuck feels very strongly about Dave’s influence – in fact, he recorded a solo piano record of Dave’s music,” Chris said. “And Mike, through different tours, has shared the stage with Dave off and on for probably 25 years. So, there’s a long history of interaction.”

Brubeck Brothers Pay Tribute to Dave Brubeck Through the Summer

Dave Brubeck's classic quartet in 1959

The Playboy Jazz Festival is one of many festival gigs the BBQ will play this summer paying homage to the late Brubeck patriarch, whose history with Hugh Hefner and Playboy went back to the very first festival in Chicago in 1959.

It was the year Dave Brubeck’s classic quartet (pictured at right) – rounded out by Paul Desmond (sax), Eugene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums) — released their epochal “Time Out” album, featuring “Take Five,” written by Desmond and arguably jazz’s greatest hit to this day.

Brubeck played the Playboy Jazz Festival three more times over the years, with different iterations of his Quartet.

Some of the lineups included his musician sons, who began playing gigs and recording with their dad in the early 1970s and kept it up for 40 years.

Brubeck Brothers Break Out on Their Own

Dave Brubeck and his sons rehearse.
The family business–Dave Brubeck on piano with four of his six children: Dan on drums, Mike on sax, Darius on trumpet, and Chris on the piano bench behind Dave. Photo courtesy Tish Brubeck.

But like most sons, the young Brubecks also wanted to find their own musical voice.

Daniel and Chris Brubeck and DeMicco and Lamb have played together in several combinations over the years. As the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, they’ve developed a style rooted in straight-ahead jazz and odd time signatures, but also branching into funk, blues and world music.

“We were really trying hard to make sure people realized we had our own composers in the group and played music that wasn’t Dave’s,” Chris said.

The BBQ’s discography includes the albums “Second Nature” (2001), “Intuition” (2006) and “Classified” (2008). Featuring Taylor Eigsti on piano and Pete Levin on organ, “Intuition” reached No. 6 on the National Jazz Radio Airplay chart and earned kudos from JazzTimes, Downbeat and the Boston Globe, among others.

The quartet has also earned a reputation as a powerful, adventurous live band through performances at concert series, colleges and festivals across North America and Europe, including the Newport, Detroit, Ravinia, Las Vegas, Sedona, Spokane and Monterey Jazz festivals.

Recording ‘LifeTimes’: Songs for Our Father

“And then when it came to ‘LifeTimes,’ we were saying, ‘Oh, gosh, Dad’s getting older,’ and we all love his music, so we thought we’d go the other way,” Chis said.

“Now that we’ve sort of staked our own claim about material and what kind of music we play, we wanted to honor him by rearranging some of his music that we do love to play,” he said. “We wanted to make sure he was alive to appreciate what we were doing by hearing the album as we were recording it.”

As the BBQ completed “LifeTimes” tracks, they’d play them for Dave, who was very tuned in to what was happening. “He loved them,” Chris said.

“My dad led just an incredible life,” he said. “It’s like if you gave a Hollywood scriptwriter a pen and said, ‘Yeah, make up any stuff you want!’ To get from where he started to where he ended up is pretty damn incredible.”

Brubeck Brothers Honor Dave Brubeck at Playboy Jazz Festival