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A Documentary

In the second half of the Twentieth Century there were many artists who shaped the development of jazz, but three young men who emerged in the 1950’s, each with a highly original voice, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck, not only captured the public’s imagination, but in their own unique way determined the evolution of jazz as we know it today.

At the end of the century, Coltrane had been dead for over three decades and Davis for almost two. Today, Coltrane and Davis can only inspire and educate in the abstract. Of this triumvirate of American musical icons, only the oldest of the three, Dave Brubeck remains, a revered and respected elder statesman, but still as vital and innovated as ever, capable of inspiring by example.

Six years later, in 2006, now in his 85th year, this was still the case when, with Iola, his wife and longtime collaborator, he undertook the composition, rehearsal and performance of Cannery Row Suite, his most recent extended work. The suite, in nine sections, is a multi-media tribute in words and music to both John Steinbeck and the Monterey of Brubeck’s youth and Steinbeck’s fabled novel, Cannery Row.

The Monterey of Brubeck and Steinbeck is also the Monterey of Clint Eastwood, who, when he learned of the commission offered to Brubeck, immediately recognized its significance and the unique musical possibilities it offered. Eastwood attended the final dress rehearsal of Cannery Row Suite and was so moved by the music he decided this new work should not only be preserved on film, but could also serve a larger purpose in providing a framework for a documentary film that would tell the story of Dave Brubeck and his place in American music.

Eastwood introduced Brubeck and his Cannery Row Suite to a standing room only audience at the Monterey Jazz Festival and each were so inspired by the success of the event they agreed to move forward with a full-length documentary.   

Dave Brubeck - In His Own Sweet Way traces the journey of the development of Cannery Row Suite from the germ of an idea, when first commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival, to its premiere at the Festival in September 2006. The early rehearsals, dress rehearsals, sound checks, and finally, the premiere were documented at every step of the way. It is a fascinating and enlightening experience.

Concurrently, Dave Brubeck – In His Own Sweet Way tells Brubeck’s personal story, tracing his career, his first musical experiences on a Central California cattle ranch, his early musical training at College of the Pacific and later study with Darius Milhaud, the overwhelming popular and commercial success of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the musical revolution caused by his introduction of new time signatures in jazz, such as in the jazz standard, Take Five, and, finally, the iconic status he and his varied forms of musical expression have achieved in the half century since he first astounded the public and his fellow musicians.

Dave Brubeck – In His Own Sweet Way will be told with contemporary interviews, previously unseen archival film and photographs, vintage performances from the Monterey Jazz Festival, including excerpts from The Real Ambassadors, the Newport Jazz Festival and additional performances filmed especially for this documentary. More importantly, the story will also be told by Dave and Iola Brubeck, both in their own words and by musical example.

Brubeck’s music seemed fully formed half a century ago. At that time, in 1956 he said:

The most desirable (form of creativity in jazz) is the sub-conscious, almost effortless flow of new material from the creator. The performer at this level has neither desire nor need for a preconceived pattern because he knows that the music comes from a source of infinite imagination and limitless variety.

Though fifty years old, this maxim remains relevant. Brubeck’s music has continued to grow, not only in complexity and originality, but in its accessibility and power to communicate. It is as welcome and well received in Moscow as in Monterey, just as is the good natured, amiable genius who creates it. He has always been just as accessible as his music. He has also been prolific. No other composer in jazz other than Duke Ellington has created so many and varied concert pieces.

Cannery Row Suite and its musical evolution, from a few scattered ideas to its premier, will illustrate and confirm Brubeck’s half a century old thesis concerning creativity and the effortless flow of new material from the creator. This has already been captured on film at the rehearsals and performance.

Dave Brubeck’s career in American music, both as a composer and pianist, is now in its seventh decade, and he remains at the height of his creative powers. Clint Eastwood’s career is now in its sixth and he is now simply beyond category. There are no comparable artists in the world of music or motion pictures. Dave Brubeck – In His Own Sweet Way will be an ideal collaboration, as one great artist pays tribute to another.

Bruce Ricker,
Rhapsody Productions




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