In mid-december, producer Seton Hawkins from Jazz at Lincoln Center asked me if I wanted to film some lessons on Dave Brubeck’s classic quartet–Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello. He said to think about a band who could talk about these great musicians and offer insight into Brubeck’s compositions. Well, I knew the right drummer in Stefan Schatz because he had told me about studying with Morello some years ago plus I knew he could play the Turkish rhythm that inspired Dave in Istanbul back in ’58. Bassist Paul Beaudry was an easy pick because he is so articulate and swinging. They there’s Sherman Irby, the lead alto player in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I thought he would be great because of his sweet and soulful sound. It turns out, Paul Desmond was the first jazz alto saxophonist he studied and immersed himself in when he first got into jazz from a classical background.
Next, I dove deep into Dave Brubeck’s music. Fortunately I had been practicing “Blue Rondo a la Turk” for some time. I wrote it out for quartet and mastered the 9/8 rhythm. Lots of repetition. My friend Dennis from Long Island has been trying to get me to play “Strange Meadlowlark” for the past 2 New Year’s Eve’s. I thought this would be a great opportunity to write it out and play it with the band. Hope you like it Dennis. Paul Beaudry has great things to say about it too. “Unsquare Dance” is so incredibly hip. “Take Five” is a must. And “The Duke” I found out was originally for Dave’s teacher Darius Milhaud as well as his hero and colleague Duke Ellington. A wonderful collection of music resulted. And, I started to feel how truly Dave Brubeck has been to me all along my journey in jazz. Dave once wrote me “I congratulate you for your seeming unlimited patience…” He was talking about my work with students. But maybe it was more. Great things come to those who wait (and keep practicing).