This week’s top jazz event is, without doubt, the Jazz Winterlude at Johnson County Community College — a weekend of solid, varied jazz programming featuring two wonderful headliners: the Brubeck Brothers Quartet on Friday and Poncho Sanchez on Saturday.
Sanchez’s danceable brand of Latin jazz is familiar, having been heard in these parts before. But what about those Brubecks?
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The two sons of Dave Brubeck in the quartet might have struggled with identity issues: How do we establish ourselves as individual musicians who just happen to carry a great musical name? How do we create our own sound?
If it has been a struggle, they don’t let it show.
The band — Chris Brubeck on bass and trombone, Dan Brubeck on drums, Chuck Lamb on piano and Mike DeMicco on guitar — has been together about eight years. They have a thick book of original material, from every member of the band. And they have a sound.
But, as Chris Brubeck describes it, “We’ve found out that people are a little disappointed if we don’t play at least a few of Dave’s great tunes.
“We’re not a ghost band, but we’ve played with Dave in different guises for so long, and professionally since the ’70s. He’s incorporated in everything we’ve done over the years.
“You know ‘Take Five,’ his most famous tune, right? There’s always a drum solo. My ‘little’ brother Dan has been playing a jaw-dropping solo on it around the world.
“Once we experimented with doing a concert without it. And
thought something was missing.”
Chris Brubeck sums it up: “I’m very proud of my musical heritage.”
It’s good to be a Brubeck.
The fierce musical independence of the father provided a good role model for the musical sons. Not in this band are Matthew Brubeck, a jazz cellist and pianist who has worked with Yo-Yo Ma, and Darius Brubeck, a pianist who lives abroad.
Chris thinks back to their unusual childhood.
“I don’t know how my mother ran that household. My father was on the road all the time. The group was in great demand all over the world, even working for the State Department overseas a lot.”
Sometimes the Brubeck kids went on tour with Dad. Chris says, “When you’re on the road and seeing people, literally thousands of people, loving your father’s music, and seeing the band in action, it makes you think, ‘Wow, that looks like a fun way to make a living. What do I have to do to do that?’
“Then on another level, I get the feeling there’s a certain amount of karma about us all being musicians. Some of it is environmental, some of it is karmic — and none of us are lazy. You may be born with talent, but you have to nurture it with hard work. And dedication.”
Of course we have to check in about Dave, who’s living not far from Chris in Connecticut.
“He just turned 91, and we keep a watchful eye on him,” Chris says. “He used to be out on the road a lot — for years, he was rather famous for never missing a concert — but now he’s seeing the wisdom of being at home.”
Dave might be retired from the road, but not from his composing. Chris says, “We’re writing a piece together, a piece where they’ll project Ansel Adams pictures above the orchestra.
“And I still catch him playing piano beautifully.”
• The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has the KC Sound Collective at 7 p.m. Thursday; the Wild Women, singers Geneva Price, Lori Tucker and Millie Edwards, in a tribute to Myra Taylor and Pearl Thuston Brown, at 8:30 p.m. Friday; and bassist James Ward’s band at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Alto saxophonist Dennis Winslett is in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m.
• Take Five Coffee Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has the trio of bassist Bob Bowman, guitarist Danny Embrey and drummer Philip Wakefield at 8 p.m. Friday.
• Cellist Helen Gillet of New Orleans is the guest on the next round of the alternative-jazz series at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road, at 8 p.m. Sunday.