Dave and Iola Brubeck on the concept of the "classic" Dave Brubeck Quartet


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SS: Now, the quartet in the early mid '50s always had yourself and Paul Desmond on alto sax. Some of the drummer and bass players shifted. However, by the late '50s, you had a pretty solid lineup with yourself, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello on drums, and Eugene Wright on bass, which formed what would later be known as the classic Dave Brubeck quartet. What distinguished that lineup from the other quartet lineups to make it the Classic Quartet?

DB: Critics. You know, I think some of my most exciting things -- I'll tell you, what really thrills me when I hear my own recordings is with Bull Ruther on bass. And, Herbie --

IB: Herb Barman?

DB: Herb Barman on drums, and Paul. And, it's a tune called "Look For the Silver Lining," and "This Can't Be Love." Now, Iola was listening to that broadcast, and she was doing housework, and getting the kids ready for bed. And, as I recall, you said you just sat down saying, "This is some wild music going on."

So, she quit working and just started listening. And, I got hold of those through NBC, I think it was. It was being broadcast. You should listen to that if you want to hear a wild group. It just doesn't start with the Classic Quartet.

IB: Well also, Joe Dodge you --

DB: Joe Dodge was a great drummer. And, look at Oberlin. Look at Pacific. There's no reason to say the Classic Quartet was the quartet. There are some disc jockeys that think the greatest rhythm section I ever had was Joe Dodge and Bob Bates. So, these things just happened by critics. One critic writes it, and then another one, and then it becomes law. But it is --

IB: Actually, also that group stayed together, I think probably longer than any of the other groups continuously. And, I think that had something to do with it too.

SS: Because it was basically 1958 --

IB: Into '67, yeah, so it's just about ten years.

DB: But, just this week, I've listened to a DVD made from a television show in Belgium with the old Classic Quartet. And, it's just perfection. That group that night, and I guess most nights was really great. So, if they wanted to call it the Classic Quartet, there have been many classic quartets. And, the quartet with Jerry Mulligan, and Alan Dawson...

SS: Which was after the Classic Quartet?

DB: And Jack Six. The greatest critic in Berlin, and maybe in Europe thought that group was better than the so-called Classic Quartet. And, all you have to do is listen to it. So, especially the album we made in Berlin at the Berlin Philharmonic. What was that critic's name?

IB: Joachim Berendt.

SS: OK, this would have been early '70s?

DB: Yeah, '71 I think.

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