Pianist Darius Brubeck is best known for the tribute to his late father (Brubecks play Brubeck) but is also making a name for himself with his own quartet consisting of two British jazz players, Dave O’Higgins and Matt Ridley, together with South African drummer Wesley Gibbens.
Tell us a bit about your latest album that you’ve recently recorded.
“We recorded our current album Cathy’s Summer last year after playing our concert repertoire on tour and we have just recorded a new album, which will be released in June, both made at Dave O’ Higgins’ studio in London. Each reflects our live performances, mainly my music but some standards and South African jazz. Incidentally, Wesley, the drummer, is South African and I lived there for over 20 years. Because I’ve been involved in so many ‘tribute’ type projects, since the series ‘Brubecks Play Brubeck’ with my brothers and Dave O’Higgins began in 2010, I wanted Cathy’s Summer to really define ‘The Darius Brubeck Quartet’ as distinct from the ‘Brubeckiana’. However, the new album, Years Ago, has two of my father’s pieces, beautiful songs from a later era and lots of South African influenced music as well. One of my newest compositions, I Saw Your Father, is a response to what people so often say to me when we’re signing CDs after the gig. They would have seen him ‘years ago’ and the whole CD is loosely about memories of people and places.”
You’re performing with your quartet at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham on Thursday 21st April. What do you like most about playing with the members of the band?
“Easy question to answer. They are all fine musicians and we’ve been together for 10 years, apart from a few gigs with different sax players. Matt and Wes gel as a rhythm section, know how to support and relate to the material creatively. Matt is always saying things like ‘what would happen if…’ in rehearsals. Wesley is so rhythmically reliable and remarkably aware of how everything he does changes, energises and shapes the group sound. Dave is just a fantastic soloist with a great command of the horn in the jazz tradition with seemingly effortless inventiveness at his fingertips. I feel I can pretty much set things up and then just enjoy the ride, like driving a great car, a comfortable but exhilarating experience.”
You’ve gained a lot of experience in jazz education around the world, particularly in South Africa, what are your views about the future of jazz education globally?
“I think overall jazz education is in a very healthy state, not least because it is such a global movement now. While jazz education is very established in many places, there is still, in a positive sense, a kind of missionary ethos that goes with being a jazz educator and many of us have travelled the world making an impact, as outsiders often do, even where the local talent is wonderful. Whatever the future of the music may be, the present status of jazz education is the existence of networks of smart, trustworthy, dedicated people, of different generations, in touch with each other in every part of the world. In this increasingly terrible world-situation, I think this phenomenon is actually more important than the music itself.”
Which classic jazz album would you have liked to play on as a sideman?
“I can’t answer this really because that would mean I’d have to have been someone else – another pianist who was there at the time – and they are all so great, whether you’re thinking of Count Basie or Herbie Hancock. I don’t think I dare fantasize about replacing any of them. In real life, I did get to play with Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan a few times in the 70s, which was uplifting and, in my fantasy world, I believe I would have enjoyed playing with Jim Hall or accompanying Billie Holiday.”
You’ve done a lot of touring across different continents. What have been your favourite places that you’ve performed?
“Tough question because there are so many. I can mention great halls, but that is merely listing famous venues. Often it’s things like the vibe, the welcome, the food and how you felt after the gig that make a place a favourite. For me personally, the main thing is whether I get a really good piano. Last year, everything came together beautifully at the Cork Festival.”
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The Darius Brubeck Quartet appear at The Ropetackle in Shoreham on Thursday 21st April. Tickets £15