Dave Brubeck at Monterey: Part 2

1961-1966


Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong, The Real Ambassadors, MJF5, September 23, 1962.
Courtesy of the Monterey County Herald.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet would return to Monterey four times in the 1960s. In 1961, the Quartet was a last-minute replacement for Horace Silver. In 1962, the Quartet appeared, and Dave and Iola made the debut of the only original cast staging of their seminal work The Real Ambassadors with Louis Armstrong, Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, Trummy Young, and Carmen McRae. Part musical, part satire and part social and political commentary on state and race relations at a time when such topics were strong in the American conscience, The Real Ambassadors made a strong impression on the audience at Monterey. Dizzy Gillespie said to Dave after the performance, “Man, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” Iola recalled that “All of us had tears of joy. We didn’t think it was possible to have such an impact.”

The Quartet, appearing again at Monterey in 1963 and 1966, reprised selections of The Real Ambassadors, but also had to deal with the reality of the growing insistence of loud Monterey audiences demanding hits like “Take Five.”

1966 would be the last “classic” Quartet appearance at Monterey. The Quartet had been together in one lineup or another since 1951, and by December of 1966, Dave gave Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright notice that he wanted to concentrate on composing larger scale works for orchestra – and spending time at home – instead of playing combo gigs. Their last performance was in December, 1967 in Pittsburgh, but Dave’s popularity, despite his “retirement,” kept him in demand as a performer.

MJF4: Sunday, September 24, 1961

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Dave Brubeck, piano; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums

“Dave Brubeck and Quartet got off fast with ‘Take Five’ and ‘Raggy Waltz’ but after that the group sounded more like a Salvation Army band on a wintery afternoon than the poll-winning combo its is supposed to be. But there was a reason. The stage was as cold as the steppes in February. Brubeck’s commanding sforzando tempo, his heavy block chords that usually have the authority of Thor’s magic hammer, were on ice. It isn’t often that one sees musicians thrust their hands into their pockets during a two-bar break.”  – Jose Stell, San Jose Mercury News, September 26, 1961

“Dave Brubeck, who arrived scarcely an hour before he went on stage, suffered somewhat from the chilly night air but nevertheless managed to score heavily with his current hit parade number, ‘Take Five’ and with a fine rendition of ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ in which Paul Desmond played a well-conceived and eloquent alto solo.”San Francisco Chronicle, September 26, 1961

MJF5: Saturday and Sunday, September 22-23, 1962

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Dave Brubeck, piano; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums

The Real Ambassadors
by Dave & Iola Brubeck
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Dave Brubeck, piano; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums; with Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan

“Brubeck and his band are still up to the same deviltry: maddening, bizarre rhythms such as five-four; eleven-four; thirteen-four against three-four; great hairy, ragged piano chords; serene preoccupied alto choruses by Paul Desmond; and an ensemble style in which each man seems, somehow, to be playing alone.” – John Upton, Carmel Pine Cone-Cymbal, September 1962

“Brubeck and his band are still up to the same deviltry: maddening, bizarre rhythms such as five-four; eleven-four; thirteen-four against three-four; great hairy, ragged piano chords; serene preoccupied alto choruses by Paul Desmond; and an ensemble style in which each man seems, somehow, to be playing alone.” – John Upton, Carmel Pine Cone-Cymbal, September 1962


Louis Armstrong, Howard Brubeck and Carmen McRae. The Real Ambassadors, MJF5, September 23, 1962. ©Monterey Jazz Festival / Jerry Stoll

“Highlight of the festival’s final day was the world premiere of excerpts from ‘The Real Ambassadors.’ Credit for this success is shared by former Oaklanders Iola and Dave Brubeck, who wrote the words and music, and Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Trummy Young and Lambert-Hendricks-Bavan, who sang the songs. Armstrong also contributed several fine trumpet solos to the accompaniment by his combo and the Brubeck trio. Mrs. Brubeck’s excellent narration summarized the story line, which expresses the force of jazz music as an international language and promoter of world understanding, and voices a plea for tolerance and love. Only minor flaws marked the ‘Ambassadors’ 65-minute production and it received a standing ovation from 5,000 listeners.”  – Russ Wilson, Oakland Tribune, September 24, 1962

“Dave Brubeck…whether or not you dig him and whether or not he has had a direct influence as a jazz stylist upon other jazz musicians, has been a major force in broadening public acceptance of jazz. Thousands of radio stations have played Brubeck albums and single hits like ‘Take Five’ that would never in a million years have played a jazz record knowingly. Thousands of people who profess a dislike for jazz have met it through Brubeck and ended up liking it. There are many hard core jazz musicians who publicize their distaste for Brubeck who have a long way to go before they do as much as he has done for the music they love.” – Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 1962

MJF6: Sunday, September 22, 1963

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Dave Brubeck, piano; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums

“The Brubeck Quartet hit a nice, swinging groove with altoist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright. And who said Brubeck doesn’t swing? Dave was ‘on’ and so was Wright for ‘King for a Day’ and Morello on ‘Dizzy Diddy,’ both from the ‘Ambassadors’ suite. Morello displayed one of the fastest left hands I’ve seen. A lady seated next to me commented, ‘It looks like a hummingbird.’” – Johnny Rodriguez, Berkeley Gazette, September 25, 1963

“Dave Brubeck followed with instrumental versions of selections from ‘The Real Ambassadors.’ Brubeck was his dominant average, and Joe Morello’s husky brushwork on drums, especially on ‘King for a Day,’ was superlative behind bassist Eugene Wright. Brubeck abandoned his usually benign demeanor when some nincompoop in the peanut gallery shouted out a request for ‘Take Five.’ Brubeck was abrupt: ‘Okay, but you’ll have to wait for it!’” – Jose Stell, San Jose Mercury News, September 24, 1963

MJF9: Friday, September 16, 1966

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Dave Brubeck, piano; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums

“Dave Brubeck’s Quartet followed with an excellent set. Altoist Paul Desmond was digging in as in days of yore and sounded better than I have heard him in the last several years. Brubeck was at his best on the minor-keyed ‘40 Days.’ The group also did a marvelously humorous section of ‘Cultural Exchange,’ a piece Brubeck wrote for Louis Armstrong. Joe Morello’s drumming on this was great. Incidentally, he was handicapped by having to use borrowed instruments, his own not having arrived due to a plane mixup. The quartet, whose other member is Eugene Wright, received such an ovation it had to play an encore.” – Russ Wilson, Oakland Tribune, September 17, 1966

“Dave Brubeck tripped out in response to a responsive house on a handful of his preferences, then accommodated the audience with ‘Take Five.’ It wasn’t written to be commercial, but the quartet romped through the piece in rote fashion.” – Jose Stell, San Jose Mercury News, September 25, 1966


Dave Brubeck Quartet, MJF9 in 1966. ©Ray Avery / CTS IMAGES

 

Dave Brubeck Quartet plays "Take Five" in 1966

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