Meridian Pays Tribute to Jazz Legend, Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)

Dave Brubeck performs at Meridian in 2009 during a program celebrating his tenure as a cultural ambassador. Photograph by Joyce N. Boghosian.

Dave Brubeck – honored as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the recipient of numerous prestigious accolades – was a world-famous pianist and composer in both the jazz and classical idioms. In his extensive travels, he was also attentive to sounds from other lands, which informed his compositions. Brubeck performed with orchestras around the United States and choral groups in this country and in Europe. He founded the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet, played with renowned musicians throughout his lifetime, and placed special emphasis on educating new generations of musicians.

Brubeck was instrumental in several projects organized by Meridian International Center and we were honored to consider him as a friend. The Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific (Stockton, California), together with Brubeck’s long-time manager and collaborator, Russell Gloyd, worked closely with Meridian's Art for Cultural Diplomacy (ACD) program to coordinate the musician’s attendance at the Jam Session exhibition opening in spring 2008. At that time, Brubeck provided valuable insights about jazz diplomacy in a dialogue with the public. The Institute also contributed remarkable images of Brubeck’s 1958 State Department tour for the exhibition, and their involvement has been recognized worldwide as Jam Session has traveled to 77 venues in 36 host countries through the Department of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

In late 2008, Meridian collaborated with the Brubeck Institute to coordinate Dave’s participation in the opening event for the exhibition, Painting the Heart of Russia: Nikolai Timkov’s Sustaining Vision. In a presentation moderated by Russell Gloyd, Brubeck discussed his role in a 1988 visit to the Soviet Union with President Ronald Reagan and the summit meeting with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. At the Meridian event, student musicians from the Brubeck Institute, accompanied by Dave on piano, jammed with young Russian counterparts, and the group received numerous ovations from the standing-room audience.

In 2010, the Brubeck Institute, Dave Brubeck, and Russell Gloyd, once again worked with Meridian when ACD organized the exhibition, In Small Things Remembered, featuring historical images and documents that chronicle a century of relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The presentation includes a facsimile of Brubeck’s hand-written score for "Nomad," a piece inspired by the Afghan rhythms he encountered during his 1958 State Department visit to Kabul. This is currently on tour at public venues around Afghanistan including Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Helmand Province.

Meridian International Center values its partnership with the Brubeck Institute, and pays tribute to the great Jazz Ambassador – and our friend – Dave Brubeck.