Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck was a legend long before his death Wednesday at the age of 91. One of the best-known jazz musicians of the 1950s, popular for "Take Five" and "Time Out," died of heart failure at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn.
It wasn't until he was studying veterinary medicine at the University of the Pacific that he found his love for the piano and changed his major to music.
During his 60-year career, Brubeck made his way around the world with his music. At the same time, he was influencing young musicians locally.
Marlo Kerner, pianist and creator of Lodi's Night Time Live jazz series, was a music student at Modesto Junior College in the '50s when Brubeck's group was traveling and stopping at colleges for performances.
The band caught his attention that night when they played "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" at MJC, after they demonstrated playing a three-quarter and four-quarter at the same time, a unique and impressive technique.
"It impressed me so much that I went home to try to play," Kerner said.
That was Kerner's first experience with Brubeck, though he went on to see him play several times.
For many in the music world, including Stockton Symphony Director Peter Jaffe, the news of Brubeck's death was devastating.
"His style of jazz, and influence and innovation and invention, has left an indelible mark on the music world," Jaffe said. "He was one of the biggest icons of the musical world."
Jaffe says the Stockton Symphony was fortunate to be connected with not only Dave Brubeck, but also his son Chris Brubeck, who is also a composer.
When the Brubeck Collection was left at University of the Pacific, Jaffe invited Dave Brubeck to write a piece for the symphony. Brubeck completed "Millennium Intervals" in late 2000, and the symphony performed it in February 2001.
That was the first time Jaffe was introduced to one of his legends, whom he describes as being incredibly humble and full of humility.
Jaffe says Brubeck told him, "After this collaboration, I hope you won't forget about me."
"I thought, 'Are you nuts!?'" Jaffe recalls.
In 2003, Jaffe and the symphony became involved with the Brubeck Festival. For the first time, it was an all-encompassing, four-day collaboration involving the Stockton Chorale, University of the Pacific, the Haggin Museum, Friends of Chamber Music and the Brubeck Institute.
It was at that festival that Jaffe performed Brubeck's hits "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo A La Turk" with Brubeck himself.
"It was a real honor. It was an amazing experience," he said.
On the day of Brubeck's death, Jaffe called the Brubeck family home in Connecticut and spoke with Brubeck's brother, Darius. The news, Jaffe said, was still very fresh and the family was still processing his death, which came the day before the musician would have turned 92.
During the upcoming Holiday Pops concert with the Stockton Symphony, Jaffe says they will perform Duke Ellington's swing version of "The Nutcracker," and the performance will be dedicated to Dave Brubeck.
"At the same time, we can celebrate Dave's enormous legacy," he said. "I feel so honored that he would share his friendship with me."
Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at email@example.com.