Five Songs, Part 102

Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Hopefully, this is the end of the memorials for a while. Again this week, Five Songs honors two musicians who lived long and productive lives.

On Wednesday (Dec. 5), close to home, it was one of Connecticut’s favorite adopted sons, Dave Brubeck, the day before his 92nd birthday — ironically, of a heart attack as son Darius was driving him to his appointment at the cardiologist’s.

Mr. Brubeck was one of my favorite interviews as the New Haven Register’s music writer. I had a phoner with him in the summer of 2000 as a preview to a New Haven Jazz Festival concert on the Green. The story lede and interview startoff point was that he was nearing the ripe old age of 80, and how it was just a number. We talked for about an hour. His manager/assistant called me the next day to ask how it went. I told him it went well, and that we talked for an hour. He said, “Whoa, he must have really liked you!” “Why’s that?” I asked. “Well,” the manager explained, “if he doesn’t like the way a line of questioning is going, he’ll find a way to get off the phone in 10 minutes.”

Let’s face it — newspapers generally don’t pay well, and I worked two-and-a-half workloads for one lousy paycheck, so one of the most intangibly rewarding aspects of the job was at least making a positive connection with my interview subjects and getting a good story out of it. Brubeck’s interview was right up there with Sonny Rollins and my first phoner with Brian Wilson  among my favorites. I never did meet him in person, but I did go to the show that Saturday night and sat up close, and it said volumes to see the smile on the man’s face practically the entire length of the performance.

The other passing, yesterday (Dec. 6), was a surprise — not that he died, but his age when he passed. Ed Cassidy, the drummer and founder of Bay Area psychedelic

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

stalwarts Spirit, was truly a nonconformist,  which you would hope and expect from a drummer — in the height of long hair and mod clothes, he went cleanheaded (hence, the nickname Mr. Skin) and wore black.

Someone posted on Facebook a few days back about rockers who are still working after 70 — the Stones, Brian Wilson, Chuck Berry, Ian Hunter, etc. I didn’t know Cassidy was five months shy of 90. Yes, nine-zero. Or that he had such a wild and eclectic and cool resume — playing in swing and show and country bands (which must’ve been something, having grown up in Bakersfield) and the San Francisco Opera; having played jazz in the ’50s with Roland Kirk, Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan; and having played in a group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder before starting Spirit with his guitarist and stepson, Randy California. And having acted, with bit roles on General Hospital in recent years.

Two full lives. Two classic tunes, one of them downright iconic. And three bits of fun to round out the week. Salut!


Take Five — The Dave Brubeck Quartet

I Got a Line on You — Spirit

Merry Christmas From the Family — Robert Earl Keen

Cleveland Rocks — Ian Hunter

Hooray for Santa Claus — The Fleshtones


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One Response to “Five Songs, Part 102”

  1. Eric Says:

    Nice stories.Both Ed and Dave led full lives and showed old age does not mean one stops being creative or vital.

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