For Chris Brubeck, returning to Stockton to perform with the Stockton Symphony is a bit like coming home, even if he never lived here.
His late parents, Dave and Iola, met at University of the Pacific and the school continues to embrace the musicians’ legacy with the Brubeck Institute for jazz musicians and the annual Brubeck Festival.
“It’s extra special to me, because of the roots and situation of my mom and dad meeting in Stockton,” Chris Brubeck said from his Connecticut home. “For me, there’s the history of me working with (symphony conductor Peter Jaffe) for so long on so many projects.”
That includes a piece inspired by Mark Twain, performing the tribute to Ansel Adams that Chris wrote with Dave Brubeck — their final collaboration — and a piece the Stockton Symphony board commissioned him to write in honor of Jaffe.
This time, Brubeck will perform his original piece, “The Blues and Beyond” at the symphony’s Classics 2 concert at 6 p.m. Saturday at Atherton Auditorium.
Brubeck will perform the concerto for trombone and trumpet, with trumpet player Stephen Goforth, a last-minute replacement for Cooper Walden, who had to cancel.
“I have a lot of playing engagements, but I had none on this particular weekend,” said Goforth, the principal trumpet with the Tulsa, Oklahoma Signature and Bartlesville symphonies. “I like the outdoors, hunting, fishing camping, and we had a pheasant hunt this weekend that I run. I told the guys ‘you know something. We’ve got to change this, because I get a chance to work with Chris again.’ So, we’ll just move it.”
Brubeck met Goforth when he performed with the Tulsa Symphony and the two previously played “The Blues and Beyond,” which Brubeck wrote for and premiered with the Czech Republic Philharmonic in 2008.
“It’s based on the blues in a lot of different ways,” Brubeck said. “I keep pushing the boundaries of what the blues is and go beyond. That’s kind of good. When you’re writing you can do anything you want. It can be terrifying to have complete freedom, to have something to do with the blues and be stretching the boundary.”
That leads Brubeck to a discussion of the blues, an American art form with a three-chord structure, and takes him to a memory of playing with blues legend B.B. King.
“We were hanging out and he said, ‘I always said the best blues musicians are jazz musicians, but they got tired of playing the three chords over and over and became jazz musicians,’ ” Brubeck said. “I was embarrassed when he said that because he said it in front of his band. Maybe in jam sessions they played some other complicated chords.”
Chris Brubeck was never tied to a limited chord range, or genre. Neither was his dad.
Though Dave Brubeck is best remembered for his quartet and jazz recordings, he also wrote symphonic pieces.
“Their styles intersect and they share things, but there are devices Chris uses that you wouldn’t find in Papa’s,” Jaffe said. “Chris has influences not only in jazz, but he’s younger, and you can hear lot of rock ’n’ roll beats in his music, and soul.”
Chris Brubeck is not just Dave Brubeck’s son. He’s an accomplished musician and composer, but he’s also indebted to his dad and proud of the legacy.
“I wouldn’t have had the confidence or courage or audacity to write orchestra music if hadn’t seen my dad do it,” Chris Brubeck said. “I never had a composition lesson or orchestral arrangement lesson in college. Everything I learn I learned from the trenches.”
By the time Chris Brubeck, 66, was in college — studying music at the University of Michigan — he was touring and playing with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He missed an entire semester while on the road and convinced his dad it was a waste of money to pay for college so he could become a professional musician when he already was one.
His dad agreed but told him he’d regret it. “You’ll never teach in a college,” Dave warned, but even that wasn’t true. Chris Brubeck has taught at the college level as an adjunct professor.
A piece of paper from a university can’t replace growing up with the best musicians of their time jamming in his living room, traveling and playing with the Dave Brubeck Quartet for 16 years, writing symphonies, learning a variety of instruments and continuing to perform all over the world with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (with brother Dan on drums) and Triple Play.
He also accepts commissions to write for symphonies and orchestras and squeezes in guest appearances, including Saturday’s.
“The Stockton Symphony has been a fantastic partner for all things Brubeck. For decades,” Brubeck said.
Jaffe loves this particular piece because of its novelty, from jazz influences to African music and hip-hop.
“It’s a knockout toe-tapper,” Jaffe said.
Goforth relishes the opportunity to play “The Blues and Beyond” again with Brubeck.
“When I first played it I was learning. This time it’s been great for me to see the form, to see the harmonic drive, to know what (Brubeck’s) thinking,” Goforth said. “I can play the chart, count it down and it sounds good, but I know more about what he was thinking. I know it so much better now. I’m thrilled to get to participate.”
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.