One Stage, Two Jazz Legends
Friday night, those in a packed Eisenhower were given a sense of the diversity of the jazz realm featuring two legends Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis. Brubeck, regarded as one of the all-time greatest jazz pianists and musical innovators since the 1940’s, provided a glimpse into a different era of jazz music. It was an experience that any jazz afficionado or musician of any preference would relish.
Following Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis drove a different beat of a different era of jazz. At the relatively young age of 76 ( Brubeck is 90), Lewis brought a more contemporary feel and mixed in classics including Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City” and a gospel tune that elicited hand-clapping from the thrilled audience.
As my friend Penn State student and musician Matt Barnes calls him, the JoePa of Jazz has continued to play well past the age of 80 while consistently disproving concerns about age and ability.
Brubeck, who has been a jazz sensation for the last 70 years, rarely tours and at one point admitted to “being allowed to play only half a show because a pacemaker had been installed for his heart.” The frail appearance and faltering speech didn’t matter, once his fingers hit the keys, the music was alive. Brubeck captivated the audience with his ability to mix heel-tapping swing, with tender melodic solos.
Brubeck’s set was followed by fellow jazz legend Ramsey Lewis who delivered an equally impressive performance, but the night belonged to the iconic Brubeck. Hundreds, myself included, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Brubeck perform live likely for the last time. Everyone in the audience’s dreams were fulfilled when Brubeck started the unmistakable beginning of his most successful hit, “Take Five.”
Last night gave a glimpse of the beauty and diversity of the jazz genre. On one stage we saw a Billboard 1959 top five hit and a gospel , both under the umbrella of jazz music, performed by two of the all-time greatest.