Dave Brubeck on the emotional impact of jazz


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SS: How do you think jazz has impacted American culture over the years?

DB: Well, I think the old cliche now is that it's the voice of freedom. But, it's not just a cliche. It is what we're known for in other parts of the world is jazz being this expression of the freedom in the United States.

And, that's one of the great attributes. Personally, if I get up in the morning, and I'm still half asleep, all I have to do is put on a Louis Armstrong recording, and I'm smiling. So, there must be great joy in Count Basie, or Stan Kenton, Louis, Art Tatum, that just makes you feel immediately that things aren't so bad.

Listen to that. I try to do some more rhythmic movements as I go around the house. And, that's because jazz is so joyful. The whole New Orleans sound is such a great sound. And, I played with New Orleans musicians, and the happiness that comes out when they're playing a happy song is contagious.

It makes you want to get up and get going, and have some fun. And, you think of the street parades where it's so sad on the way to a burial might be A Closer Walk With Thee, and on the way back they'll play, "Didn't he ramble? He rambled over town." And, that's so happy.

SS: It's interesting how you're commenting on jazz's emotional impact can be the whole broad spectrum from joy to sorrow.

DB: Yeah, and it can be. When I was playing in nightclubs when I was young, and there were quite a few musicians playing in the bars -- different bars up and down the street. You could tell from the music whether something joyful had happened during the day to the band, or something very sad. They'd get into a sad mode, and you'd know something didn't go so well.

Somebody's ill or somebody died. You'd just feel it, and you move on down the street because you didn't want to hear that all night. A little of sadness, and there would be some band just playing so great and having so much fun. But, playing jazz is so much fun when it's going right. There's hardly anything that can be that joyful.

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