Columbia celebrates the arts FESTIVAL: Dave Brubeck, Mr. Jazz for decades of fans, is just one of the high notes as Columbia celebrates the arts.


How absolutely fitting.

Dave Brubeck answers the phone in his Connecticut home with the lively sounds of piano music playing in the background.

The music sounds terrific, but it is difficult to hear conversation.

"I just got this new machine," he explains. "It's a DAT machine, and I am listening to a recording. I don't know how to turn it off. Hold on. I'll get someone to rescue me."

A few seconds on hold, and Brubeck is back on the phone. We should say the legendary Dave Brubeck. It's a word that has been used time and time again: legendary. Judging who is legendary is a matter of personal choice, but who could possibly disagree with using the "L" word in front of Dave Brubeck's name? After all, the jazz pianist, band leader and composer has been tickling those ivory keyboards and performing for more than 60 years.

And at the age of 75, Brubeck is still going strong.

The jazz icon will bring his magic to the Columbia Festival of the Arts on Sunday, June 23, at 7: 30 p.m. at River Hill High School. A few days later, he leaves this country for a performance with the symphony in Vienna, Austria, and a couple of days after that, he'll perform in Lugano, Switzerland.

This is the eighth year Columbia has celebrated the arts with song, dance, theater, workshops and exhibits with enough variety to satisfy just about all tastes. The festival begins tomorrow and goes until June 23, with about 60 scheduled events.

In addition to Brubeck, there will be many, many other performers at the festival, including another legend: blues singer Joe Williams, who performs on Saturday, June 22, at 8 p.m. in the Smith Theatre.

The "tap outlaw" Anita Feldman and her company will present a world premiere piece commissioned by the Columbia Festival of the Arts in collaboration with Toby Twining on Sunday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Smith Theatre.

Also on the schedule are actor William Windom in "Thurber" (June 19), clarinetist Richard Stoltzman (June 21), the alternative acoustic rock band Love Riot (tomorrow at the Lakefront Birthday Celebration), guitarist Al Petteway (Sunday at the Lakefront) and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers (Saturday at the Lakefront).

The performance by Brubeck is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Brubeck was born in Concord, Calif., on Dec. 6, 1920, the son of a cattle rancher. "I grew up with a mother who was a piano teacher," he says. Brubeck was the youngest of three brothers who all went into the music business.

He went to college, however, with the intention of becoming a veterinarian and returning to the ranch. That idea was quickly put to pasture.

Brubeck worked his way through college by performing as a jazz pianist in local clubs. The love of music won out, and he changed his major.

After a stint in the Army, he studied music and eventually hooked up with musicians Cal Tjader and Paul Desmond. The three, along with clarinetist Bill Smith, later became members of the Dave Brubeck Trio and Quartet.

It was 1949 when Brubeck's trio, with Tjader and Ron Crotty, released its first record in San Francisco. Their records received critical acclaim, including the first of many awards Brubeck would receive throughout his career. The rest, as they say, is history.

During the early days, Brubeck toured with artists including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan.

Brubeck has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and many awards from trade magazines. In 1994, President Clinton presented Brubeck with the National Medal of the Arts.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the pianist on this year's Grammy Awards show. Also this year, his "Take Five" recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The song, which by far is his most requested, was written in 1959 by Desmond. The record shot to the top of the charts and is still being reincarnated in different versions today.

These days, as it has been for decades, Brubeck's schedule is enough to make a 20-year-old weary.

"I have been to Europe three times since the beginning of the year," he says. "I just came back from a month of one-nighters throughout Europe."

Traveling, he says, goes along with the territory -- and it is often on the road that he does his composing.

"I compose on the train, airplane, hotel rooms. Anywhere," he says. "I don't really have a set schedule."

But there is always room for music in his life. Some musicians Brubeck began listening to and still does are Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

Among the younger crowd, the players he enjoys include the musicians who play alongside him on a recent album, "Young Lions and Old Tigers," including Roy Hargrove and Joshua Redman.

With such a whirlwind lifestyle, Brubeck gets immense pleasure out of something most of us take for granted -- staying home.

"Yes, I am enjoying this," he says.


What: 8th Annual Columbia Festival of the Arts

When: Various times June 14-23

Where: Nine locations in and around Columbia

Tickets: Adults, $10-$25; children and students, half price; seniors, 10 percent discount

Call: (410) 715-3055

This weekend: Free Lakefront Birthday Celebration, Friday, 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-9 p.m., at Lake Kittamaqundi in downtown Columbia

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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