Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Dave Brubeck Quartet

”Senior Lifesaving and Water Safety” card, front
”Senior Lifesaving and Water Safety” card, front

It took me some time to find it but find it I did: my “Senior Lifesaving and Water Safety” card, issued on August 29, 1969 when I was 15 years old. 

The thing would never have survived the last 50-plus years had it not come in most handy on August 17, 1970. That was the day that along with my friend Craig Denning and his father Allan, I attended a concert at “St. John Terrell’s Music Circus” in Lambertville, New Jersey. The “Music Circus” was (and is) a summer-only theater-in-the-round under a tent (a very big tent). The act that evening was the Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, Jack Six on bass, and Alan Dawson on drums (the “classic” Brubeck quartet that made the album Take Five that featured the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums had disbanded in 1967). 

We got there early and walked around the field outside the big top tent, and who was out taking a walk as well but Maestro Brubeck himself. I froze: I was 16 years old and Dave Brubeck was my hero. Craig and his dad encouraged me to talk to him, so I summoned up my nerve, walked over, and completely tongue-tied I blurted out that I loved him (as true today as it was then). He was sweetness and grace personified (I’m getting teary writing this). He was a tall man with huge hands and a gigantic smile. He held my hand in his big paw and asked about me. He signaled Craig and Allan Denning to come on over, which they did, and we shot the breeze with FREAKIN’ DAVE BRUBECK for the next five minutes, until he said something on the lines of, “I guess I’ve got to go to work.” But before he ambled off, I pulled out my Senior Lifesaving card from my wallet and asked him for an autograph. He graciously complied:

My lifesaving card, back, with Brubeck’s autograph and my ticket stub from the concert
My lifesaving card, back, with Brubeck’s autograph and my ticket stub from the concert

I was to encounter Brubeck again, in 1971, though that’s another story for another time. For now, the particulars.

Brubeck was born on December 6, 1920 in Concord, California, 16 miles to the northwest of where I am presently writing this blog. His father Pete was a rancher and his mother Elizabeth – who had studied piano with the great Myra Hess (who was featured in Music History Monday on February 25, 2019) – was a piano teacher. …

Continue reading, only on Patreon!

Become a Patron!

Robert Greenberg Courses On Sale Now