Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Remember Dave (Brubeck)

The year was 1983 when I was called into my Boss’ office at Columbia Pictures Publications.  Sitting there were three gentlemen (one of whom I thought I recognized).  They were the legendary Dave Brubeck, his Attorney and his Music Director/Conductor.  My Boss introduced me and told me that I was to be the Creative Editor assigned to publish the Brubeck catalog (once our deal could be finalized).  When I shook Dave’s hand, I looked at him and said “It’s a Raggy Waltz”. “Not Take Five?” he replied.  I said, “oh yeah, that too.  But in my Freshman year at North Texas State University, my piano teacher assigned “It’s a Raggy Waltz” as one of my pieces for that semester.” 

His Music Director immediately chimed in “Hey, I went there too.  When were you there?” We talked about the school a little (and how incredibly difficulty that particular transcription that I was assigned was to play) and my credibility was immediately established.  We agreed that we would first recycle some of Dave’s older arrangements (which had been lovingly and very skillfully prepared by Dave’s brother Howard) and then try to create new arrangements that would be more playable by a broader segment of the market.

One of those original books, The Genius of Dave Brubeck. Book 1, remains in print to this day. 

Going forward, every time Dave released a new Solo Piano recording, we would produce a matching folio with intermediate level arrangements.  Dave also created collections of music more directly intended for the piano teacher/student market; jazzy but also classical/baroque in style. 

Our Educational Editors and Arrangers also had a great time using Brubeck’s music to create and publish new simplified piano, band, orchestra and choral arrangements.  Dave contributed to the choral catalog with a number of original compositions … serious music … and they were extremely well received. 

Fast forward 17 years.  The phone rings, I answer, and it was Dave.  He wanted to talk about his next record and about some of the music that would be on it … mostly standards and evergreens (all well-known tunes) with a few Brubeck originals.  At the end of our talk, before hanging up, Dave said “Don’t forget me, Dave”.  I assured him that could never happen. 

Thirty minutes later, the phone rings again.  It was Dave’s wife, Iola.  “What did you say to him?” I told her about the conversation we had had and she said “Well, he hung up the phone and went straight to the piano and wrote a new song he’s calling “Don’t Forget Me” and he’s dedicating it to you”. 

A few days later, a copy of the manuscript arrived and I ran to the nearest piano to play it. The song ended up being included on the CD “Dave Brubeck Quartet: Park Avenue South”In the liner notes of the CD, Dave wrote “The ideas for a song come to me in many different ways.  A bird call (‘Strange Meadowlark’), a poem (‘Hold Fast to Dreams’) or sometimes a spoken phrase.  I concluded a phone call not long ago with my long-time friend and associate at Warner Bros. Publications, Dave Olsen, saying “Don’t forget me.” Then, immediately sat down at the piano and wrote the tune you hear on this recording.”

Then, as now, we won’t forget you Dave! Your music lives on in all our memories. 


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