Interview by John Dankosky
John got to interview Dave Brubeck on stage during the Litchfield Jazz Festival in the fall of 2008. The extended interview originally aired on Dankosky’s show, Where We Live, which airs on WNPR in Connecticut.
The Animated Transcript
My energy’s still there. And I think my love of family, of my country, of jazz, of playing will make me put up with all the crap. (Crowd laughs and cheers)
Dave Brubeck, it’s been 50 years this year since your tour behind the Iron Curtain, and I’m wondering if you could reminisce a little bit about that time in which you played in front of audiences that had not previously experienced American music, at least not for a number of years, and what that was like for you because it was a remarkable, groundbreaking thing.
President Eisenhower wanted jazz to go out into the world and especially along the Russian border. Our tour started for the State Department in Poland, which was communistic. You can’t believe how well we were received.
They wrote about things like that we were from heaven, sent to them, can you imagine We played 12 concerts in Poland. Underground meetings and underground concerts. The last night they threw a party for us and the president of the underground club wanted to give a toast and he stood up and said, “You’re going home tomorrow. I want you to know how we Poles love freedom as much as you Americans, and thank you for coming.” So what we did, we didn’t understand how we could be that important. We had no clue that we were helping people break away from Communism.
Eventually we went to Russia three times, but twice our ambassador called me and he said, “Dave, don’t come. If you come, the Secret Police are going to have a table at the door and everyone who comes in, their identification card will be taken. They will never get an education; they will never get a government job or a good job. I don’t think you want to come because some people are going to come and lose everything just because they want to see you.” Can you understand how that is?
Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”
Performed live at the 2008 Litchfield Jazz Festival