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URG Jazz Ensemble honors Dave Brubeck

April 19, 2013

 The University of Rio Grande Jazz Ensemble pays tribute to Dave Brubeck in a concert Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:00 in the auditorium at the Berry Fine Arts Center. The concert is free and open to the public.

Brubeck, who passed away in December, was one of the foremost jazz pianists and composers in the 20th century.  His music ranged from the refined elegance of West Coast jazz to bombastic swinging improvisations at the piano, using handfuls of notes. With the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, the Dave Brubeck Quartet produced one of the most popular jazz albums of all time — Time Out — that explored odd, irregular meters like 5/4 in the popular “Take Five”, which was featured on the album.

He was only the second jazz musician to be featured on the cover of Time magazine (after Louis Armstrong) in 1954, although Brubeck felt that honor should have gone to Duke Ellington. While serving in the U. S. Army  during WWII, Brubeck formed the first racially integrated band in the armed forces, a pattern he was to follow for most of his career. He was fiercely loyal to his musicians and his principles and would cancel appearances if club owners resisted the idea of an integrated band; he cancelled a television performance when he found out that the producers intended to keep his bassist, Eugene Wright, off-camera.

Brubeck acted as a cultural ambassador throughout his life, working with the State Department to bring jazz around the world. He honored the people that he visited, often incorporating their musical language into his own compositions such as “Maori Blues” and “Koto Song”, which the Jazz ensemble will perform. These worldwide tours were later recognized when he was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy in 2008. In 2009 Brubeck was honored as a Kennedy Center Honoree by President Obama.

The URG Jazz Ensemble consists of Justine Baker, flute and tenor saxophone, Chad Baker, trumpet, Paul Hogue, trombone, Thomas Milliken, guitar, Megan Cantrell, vibraphone, Jeremy Martin, double bass, Jordan Lombardo, electric bass, Skyler Thompson, drums, under the direction of Dr. Chris Kenney, piano.