Stockton, CA

Stockton, CA… A Seaport town, would you believe that! I had no idea. Well there’s probably lots I don’t know about Stockton. But, it is also the home of The University of the Pacific, which is, in turn, home to the Dave Brubeck Institute. So David himself became an educator—more specifically a Jazz educator—and he deliberately set about taking his jazz music to campus. In fact, there is a record that’s called Jazz Goes to College. And so how appropriate the Brubeck Institute is on the Pacific campus where he went to school and where he met his wife Iola who passed just a few weeks ago. I heard him in my own campus’ little theater in 1961 at Ripon College, with the Dave Brubeck Quartet: Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Gene Wright, and Dave.

This has to have marked the early stages of some Jazz educational notions that were surely part of his deliberate efforts to take this important American music form to the European continent itself. He was not alone in this. He had colleagues a few years older than he, like Basie and Ellington, Woody Herman, Kenton, Sarah, Ella, and others, who all led the way.

Perhaps the crowning venture in his educational outreach is The Brubeck Institute, since 2001, at his old alma mater, which was the College of the Pacific. It has begun to take its place right alongside Berkeley College of Music, North Texas State, University of Indiana, and Julliard as one of the great centers for Jazz education in America.

I have been on the board and letterhead at the Brubeck Institute for several years, but this was the first time I’ve actually been to visit and play at their 13 year old festival.

We sure got the royal treatment all day long at the Bob Hope Theatre, which hosts a lot of the performances for the festival. Simon Rowe, the director of the Institute, is so warm and gracious as to make you feel like you are visiting your own grade school. He was there for soundcheck and to introduce me and the band for our evening performance. A really lovely night was had by all, and the band and I ran the gamut of musical excursions, appropriately including a quite fresh version of Take Five-Blue Rondo a la Turk, and a two-song encore of “Put It Where You Want It” and “Roof Garden-Reach For It.” (The new Roof-Reach Medley is coming soon on the George Duke tribute album as well.)

Here’s a wonderful ‘parenthesis’ for you: Back in 1965 or so, a youthful George Duke produced and recorded a family of 5 girl singers called “The Third Wave”. They sang at one of the premier Bay Area Jazz clubs in Sausalito called The Trident. The town of Stockton has always had a sunshiney place in my mind because these five sisters ages 12 to 18 were from Stockton. Whenever I thought of them, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I thought of Stockton. (As a group, they were fabulous. Look ‘em up on YouTube.) So while driving from the airport, we called information, and found Josie, their mother. What a reunion on the phone. And when they came backstage at the concert, we were jumping up and down like kids on a school playground. And… We sang “Chloe,” a song from their record. That was a moment none of us will ever forget.

My record producer’s father and mother Bob and Marlene Burk popped in on us that night, and looked on with big eyes and accompanying grins. Thanks, John!

The next morning, we concluded our visit with a panel discussion that included me along with a great group: Grammy-winning drummer Terri Lynn Carrington; her piano player Helen Sung; my bass player Chris Walker; his instructor from high school, Dr. Morgan; and Simon Rowe, from the Brubeck Institute. In fact, not only Chris, but also both Helen and Simon were at one point students of Dr. Morgan. Amazing. We should have been on CSPAN with this discussion of the importance of arts in the school curriculum.

Well there you have it. The above and a wonderful list of bright fresh creative moments beginning last May have been highlighting this period of my life and stage of my career. It is refreshing and rejuvenating… And I’m Percolatin’, syncopatin’, celebratin’, elevatin’. “And coming soon to a theater near you!”

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