Chris Brubeck plays Bach

— When he was 4, Chris Brubeck hid under the piano to hear the music.

That was when his father, legendary pianist Dave Brubeck, knew he would become a musician, says Brubeck, now 48, one of six Brubeck offspring.

Dave Brubeck will celebrate his 80th birthday Wednesday. "He is still playing great," Chris Brubeck said in an interview. "He's playing all the time."

The elder Brubeck led the Dave Brubeck Quartet, one of the most popular jazz groups of all time. "Time Out," released in 1960, was the first million-selling jazz LP. Over the years, his piano style of complex harmonies evolved into something more melodic, and he has composed classical, sacred and jazz music.

Chris Brubeck and three of his brothers will perform with the London Symphony at a three-day birthday celebration for their father that will begin in London on Dec. 21. Chris will play trombone and electric bass, Dan will play the drums, Darius will be on keyboards and Matthew will play cello.

"Our sister, Catherine, is raising three children and Mike trains horses. Dave likes that. His father trained horses and he was a cowboy growing up. Because of our diverse careers, my brothers and I live all over the world, but we look forward to invading London for Dave's birthday concert," said Chris Brubeck, whose new CD, "Bach to Brubeck," was recorded with the London Symphony.

Beatles fan meets Paul

"I grew up a Beatles freak. In making the 'Bach to Brubeck' CD at the Abbey Road Studios in London, we used some of the same microphones The Beatles used. I met Paul McCartney at the end of the session. He only comes in there a few times a year. I felt like the stars were lining up just right."

The Koch recording flows with a nicely judged musical logic. It contains three pieces by Bach, arranged and orchestrated by Chris Brubeck; "Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra," written by Chris Brubeck; three pieces by Dave Brubeck; and a Scott Joplin rag.

The concerto for bass trombone and orchestra was written at the request of the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra in Connecticut. "I'd had the idea to write a trombone concerto for a long time," he said. "I did it for myself and the kids in the orchestra. That's part of the reason there is a youthful, quirky flavor to it. I tried not to make it impossibly hard."

Chris Brubeck has also composed "Crescent City Suite" for the Aspen Wind Quintette and "Wisdom" for the Manhattan Choral Festival. He orchestrated a series of Christmas concerts for the Houston Symphony and has written three musicals. He's currently working on one about the biblical King David when he was young.

"I've always dreamed of recording with one of the world's great orchestras. Since that's now come true, maybe next I'll be able to bring one of my musical projects to Broadway, fulfilling yet another dream," he said.

He performs with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, which includes brother Dan on the drums, guitarist Mike DeMicco and keyboardist Pete Levin. He also plays with the trio Triple Play, with guitarist Joel Brown and harmonica player Peter Madcat Ruth. ("I have nightmares that I've scheduled both the same night.")

Learning the basics

His father suggested that he study piano to learn musical notation, but "I don't play piano when Dave's around," he said. Not drawn to the high-pitched trumpet or violin, he took up electric bass. He started studying trombone in the fourth grade.

"The next summer, Dave was sharing a bill with Louis Armstrong. I met him backstage. Dave told him I played trombone. Louis looked at me and said, 'You got the chops for it.' It was like he blessed me. It was like Willie Mays saying to a Little Leaguer, 'You look like a center fielder."'


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