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Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Blues Day In A World Where Truth Has Fallen

Wednesday, December 5th, was a sad day. We lost a good man in a world that cannot afford to do so. On Wednesday, Dave Brubeck died from heart failure, a day before his 92nd birthday.

Everybody who has heard of Brubeck knows of his musical legacy. And many of those who know his musical legacy are aware of how he promoted Civil Rights. And some of those who know of his contributions to Civil Rights know of his generosity. But there is a characteristic of Brubeck that has received little attention. It is the characteristic that led me to name my son after him in hopes that my son would listen to others in the same way. Very few have mentioned Brubeck's love of listening to others.

I first time saw Dave Brubeck perform was at the Temple Music Festival in Ambler, PA. From the first concert, I was surprised by watching such a famous musician put so much energy in listening to others as they played. An example of how Brubeck listened can be seen here as his group played Take Five in Berlin. Brubeck also listened to those outside of his own ensemble as well. Music such as Blue Rondo A La Turk and Koto Song are just 2 examples of many songs written after listening to musicians from other parts of the world.

Brubeck's propensity to listen attentively is perhaps what we should miss the most from his passing. I say this because listening to others is being relegated to a lost art. Why should one care about listening when one has or seeks great power or places profit over people?  And all too often, when listening is being practiced today, it is done in a way that triggers a malignancy in our souls because we all too often prefer to listen to those with wealth and power so as to ride in on their coattails while we turn a deaf ear to those in need.

Brubeck's religious work called Truth draws from a past real life dystopia depicted in Isaiah 59. And things have gotten worse since Brubeck wrote the music. From that work, Brubeck performed the single Truth  in jazz concerts with fellow musicians Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Alan Dawson, and Jack Six. Brubeck's solo more than adequately captures the state of the world today. In saying that, I am not focussing solely on the disarray that would be cast on us by violent terrorists and criminals; I include the Western nations who either turn a blind eye to the injustices practiced by friends or sanctify their own violence calling it patriotism or defending freedom, or they attempt to escape accountability by hiding behind the valor of our troops. I would also include in this disruptive mix those whose financial ambitions cause havoc on the welfare of others.

When driven by greed or ambition, listening to others, especially when those others are one's victims, is harmful to achieving one's own goals. So perhaps listening is the best litmus test for pure motivations. And this brings us back to Dave Brubeck and why he added so much to lives of others. He didn't simply listen, he listened with energy and enthusiasm.

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