Family affair

Composer and musician Chris Brubeck discusses life and music—and inviting his dad to gig

Photo By Stephane Colber

Preview: The Brubeck Brothers Quartet w/ special guest Dave Brubeck, Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room Thurs., April 13, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39Chris Brubeck: When the musicians are in a groove and the audience is in a groove. … Perfect happiness of people coming together through the arts.

“It’s our group with Dave as our guest,” Chris Brubeck explained good-naturedly, referring to his famous father, “as opposed to Dave Brubeck and us playing with him. It will be half Brubeck Brothers, half Dave as our guest. …We normally don’t play with Dave. You know, he has his own group.”

I caught up recently with the busy jazz and classical composer/ musician and son of legendary pianist Dave Brubeck. Chris, who plays bass, trombone and piano, is one-fourth of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, which includes his brother Dan on drums and percussion, jazz guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist/percussionist/composer Chuck Lamb. We chatted about Convergence, Chris’ new “classical orchestral CD with a jazz influence,” and the upcoming Brubeck Brothers show at the Sierra Nevada Big Room, to be filmed as part of the ongoing PBS Sierra Center Stage series.

I then launched into the same “Proust Questionnaire” (a series of questions posed to famous subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experiences) that his father answered in the March 2006 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Chris participated in it with enthusiasm and endearing thoughtfulness and sense of humor.

CN&R: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Chris Brubeck: When the musicians are in a groove and the audience is in a groove. … Perfect happiness of people coming together through the arts.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I don’t know if I identify with any of them. I find someone like Mark Twain very interesting, fascinating, but I don’t identify with him. I spent a year researching him for a piece I wrote for the Stockton Symphony.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

The inability to be confrontational.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Narrow-minded thinking and violence.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Ideological zealotry.

On what occasion do you lie?

To keep feelings from being hurt.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

It comes and goes. [Laughs.] I’ve sorta been exercising, so it’s my stomach.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news … “

What is your greatest regret?

That I didn’t meet my second wife Tish first. Although I have to qualify that. I have a wonderful son who came from the first one.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

That’s the easiest. My wife Tish. … She loves my parents; they love her like a daughter. It’s the whole extended family. There’s a lot of love there.

When and where were you happiest?

I’m probably happiest right now, because my kids are grown up and happy. I have a friend who says, “You’re only as happy as your most miserable child.” And career-wise, I’m happy.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The size of my bank account. So I could get the house of our dreams for my wife and me.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

That’s really an interesting question. Hmm … one thing. If we all had more time to just spend being a family together. The balance between lazy family time and career for all of us.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

If I were lucky, as a composer/musician. The same thing I am now.

What is your most treasured possession?

The love that I have for all branches of my family.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

To be trapped in some sort of horrible vegetative state where you can’t communicate, can’t create art, can’t hear music. Where you’re just a living drain on your family.

What is it that you most dislike?

People treating each other contrary to the true teachings—not the church teachings—of Jesus.

Who are your favorite writers?

Mark Twain, John Irving, Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Zorro. [Laughs.]

Who are your heroes in real life?

My father. Paul Newman … because he has created a template of what to do with the power of celebrity. Jimmy Carter, maybe the greatest ex-president we’ve ever had. … Mother Teresa.

What are your favorite names?

Basically I like most names. The names that I don’t like are the ones where the hippies go too far, like “Crunchy Rainbow” or “Granola Rainbow.” The kid is the one who suffers with a name like that.

How would you like to die?

In my sleep and not knowing it was coming.

What is your motto?

First of all, I have to say that I don’t have a motto chiseled on a plaque in my brain, but if I were to pick one, it would be, “Love one another. Try to live a creative and happy life. Do something to uplift humanity.” … The other motto I have is, “Sorry, I have lesdyxia.”