What happens when two legends collide?
Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings will have the answer for you with the May 28 premiere release of Bennett and Brubeck – The White House Sessions: Live 1962 from Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck. In the true spirit of jazz, the performance by these two titans on August 28, 1962 was largely unplanned. Both men – Brubeck with his Quartet and Bennett with his Ralph Sharon-led ensemble – were appearing at the behest of President John F. Kennedy’s White House. The occasion was an end-of-summer concert at Washington DC’s Sylvan Theatre to thank college-age interns who had served that summer in the nation’s capital. Following solo sets, they agreed to a once-in-a-lifetime summit, included in full on this historic new release.
Disc jockey William B. Williams, of radio’s Make Believe Ballroom fame, first introduced Brubeck, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello and Paul Desmond for a four-song set that kicked off with “Take Five” from 1959’s seminal Time Out. Brubeck was still riding the crest of the album’s success at the time of the Washington performance. Tony Bennett could also be said to have been on top of the world. Bennett’s now-signature song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was capturing hearts here, there and everywhere as it first appeared on the Billboard charts a scant seventeen days prior to the performance. Williams returned to introduce Bennett, accompanied by Ralph Sharon on piano, Hal Gaylord on bass and Billy Exner on drums. “San Francisco” had already earned the coveted closing spot in Bennett’s six-song set, and many of the standards surveyed by Bennett are still songs he performs today. The singer opened with three Jule Styne compositions from Broadway – “Just in Time” from Bells Are Ringing, “Small World” from Gypsy and “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi, and also surveyed songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (“Rags to Riches”) and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer (“One for My Baby”).
After the jump: details on the Bennett/Brubeck summit including the full track listing!
But producer Teo Macero captured the evening’s history-making occasion when Bennett joined the Brubeck Quartet (sans Paul Desmond) for a further four songs including “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town),” “That Old Black Magic” and “There Will Never Be Another You.” The latter title was an appropriate one for both gentlemen. “That Old Black Magic” has appeared before on compilations including Brubeck’s 1971 The Summit Sessions and 2001’s Vocal Encounters, revealing how truly sympathetic an accompanist Brubeck could be. Bennett, of course, had a jazzman’s sensibility that made him an ideal sparring partner for the likes of Brubeck, Count Basie and Bill Evans. But the upcoming Columbia/Legacy CD marks the very first appearance of the full concert as recently discovered in Sony’s vaults.
Ted Gioia provides liner notes for the new CD, writing, “Both had arrived at stardom, but were seemingly stars from different galaxies. Yet these two beloved musicians also had much in common. Both had served in World War II, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Both were active in the Civil Rights Movement—not long before this recording was made, Brubeck canceled 23 concerts rather than replace his African-American bassist Eugene Wright, and Bennett would soon be marching with Martin Luther King in Montgomery, Alabama. But these two artists were musically simpatico as well. They shared a devotion to the great American songbook, and knew how to straddle the worlds of jazz and popular music without compromises or crass commercialism, yet still reach millions of people, many of whom would never step inside a jazz club or read a copy of Down Beat.”
Indeed, it’s likely that you’ll want to take “time out” to enjoy this event. Bennett and Brubeck reunited a staggering 47 years later at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival to recreate “That Old Black Magic” as only two old pros could do, but The White House Sessions preserves the landmark meeting of Bennett, Brubeck, Wright and Morello. You’ll find it in stores on May 28! We will update with a pre-order link as soon as one is available!
Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck, Bennett & Brubeck: The White House Sessions, Live 1962 (RPM/Columbia/Legacy, 2013)
- Introduction – William B. Williams
- Take Five
- Band introduction
- Thank You (Dziekuje)
- Castilian Blues
- Introduction – William B. Williams
- Just In Time (from Bells Are Ringing)
- Small World (from Gypsy)
- Make Someone Happy (from Do Re Mi)
- Rags To Riches
- One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) (from the RKO film The Sky’s The Limit)
- (I Left My Heart In) San Francisco
- Lullaby Of Broadway (from the Warner Bros./Vitaphone film Golddiggers of 1935)
- Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)
- That Old Black Magic
- There Will Never Be Another You (from the 20th Century-Fox film Iceland)
Tracks 1-6 performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet (Dave Brubeck, piano; Paul Desmond, alto sax; Eugene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums)
Tracks 7-14 performed by Tony Bennett and trio led by Ralph Sharon (Ralph Sharon, piano; Hal Gaylord, bass; Billy Exner, drums)
Tracks 14-17 performed by Bennett, Brubeck, Morello and Wright