Events and Reviews

Review by Hastings Online Times, December 2023

Darius Brubeck Quartet wows the Jazz Hastings audience

Jazz Hastings was proud to welcome the son of a famous father, Darius Brubeck, son of Dave, and his quartet to its December gig last week. And Victoria Kingham was there to enjoy a memorable evening, complete with unusual time signatures – like father, like son.

Another packed night at the best jazz club this side of London. Chairs are brought in from everywhere, jazz club organisers meet and greet, friends and neighbours sit down, everyone anticipates a good time. I love this audience. I love this club too. It’s decorated with silver and gold garlands, a Christmas tree with lights – very traditional, unlike the jazz which follows.

Ethnomusicologist and ex-professor Darius Brubeck pays considerable tribute to his father’s compositions, but is a musician of a different order. Since settling in Rye, he has toured regularly with the same band – Matt Ridley on bass, Wesley Gibbens on drums, and the elegant, extraordinary Dave O’Higgins on tenor.

This highly accomplished yet relaxed quartet presented a well-designed set, particularly notable for its time signatures – 7/4, 6/4, 5/4, 9/8…The careful rhythmic variety made appealing listening: in a groove, but neither stilted nor pretentious. The band have recorded many of the numbers, mostly on Live in Poland (2019) or Years Ago (2016).

Brubeck spent years teaching and playing jazz in South Africa, a fact acknowledged by a version of the Masekela number Nomali. Their version was edgier – O’Higgins’ and Brubeck’s inventions are more modern jazz and less African modal than the original. The simple beauty of the tune evoked a small tear, as did the memories of Masekela, Pukwana, Feza, McGregor, Makeba – the whole South African sound transported to England away from prohibitive apartheid.

Another favourite was the evocative ballad Sea of Troubles (cf. Hamlet, everyone’s favourite bipolar antihero) presented in the second, highly integrated, set. It’s a two-chord alternator in a gentle 7/4, leaving plenty of space for O’Higgins’ exploratory improvisation after Ridley’s drum intro and Brubeck’s tumbling waves of notes. It’s a lovely sound – O’Higgins plays a mellow, breath-coated, Conn 10M tenor sax (favoured by luminaries Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young), incorporating a vintage reminiscence into his post-Coltrane phrases.

But the surprise of the evening was a version of Blowin’ In the Wind – an extraordinary choice, but in fact recorded by this quartet in 2008.  The change of time-signature to 5/4 brings it an eerie ambience and swing, One other tribute was a medley of the music of Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), incorporating some of Ibrahim’s characteristic, open South African piano sounds, and dedicated to St Leonards’ own ex-South African jazz promoter, Reg Hendrickse.

Numbers by Brubeck père included Pick Up Sticks, legendary Blue Rondo a la Turk (definitely a blues!) and inevitably Take Five, one of the few jazz tunes to top the popular charts. Way back, I almost wore out the single that featured both these. Faster, more up-beat, less Desmond obviously, but there it was in its augmented glory.

The encore was Winter Wonderland, oh-so-muzak nowadays, but this 5/4 version is upbeat and interesting, and made an impressive end to an evening of rhythmic variety and invention.

Victoria Kingham

Jazz Café review, December 2023

Darius Brubeck at the Jazz Café

Darius Brubeck may now be 76 years old, but his music remains as lively, vibrant, and charismatic as ever. Performing live at the Jazz Cafe in Camden, the legendary pianist was joined by his quartet of 16 years featuring Dave O’Higgins on tenor saxophone, Matt Ridley on double bass, and Wesley Gibbens on drums.

This was a gig of two halves. The first featured straight-ahead covers from his father’s legendary 1959 album Time Out, whilst the second explored the infectious sounds of South African jazz. The balance between the personal and political was spot on – it was at once deeply respectful of his father’s musical legacy whilst also sharply aware of social injustices and racial liberation struggles during apartheid.

Just as on Time Out, the band opened the night with ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ and navigated the darting rhythms and shifting tempos with a classy precision. This was followed by more Brubeck classics, ‘Three to Get Ready’, ‘Strange Meadow Lark’, and ‘Cathy’s Waltz’. Like his father, Darius has a wonderful ability to combine the symmetrical elegance of Haydn and the lyrical phrasing of Chopin with the cool swinging rhythms of West Coast jazz, a sound that is well over 60 years old but remains as fresh and exciting as ever. ‘Take Five’ was saved as the final tune of the set, an eagerly anticipated crowd favourite which did not disappoint and featured top-notch solos from all bandmembers. O’Higgins was particularly impressive throughout, his tenor bringing a muscular modern edge to tunes that were originally recorded with Paul Desmond’s dark and dry alto tone.

In the second set, Darius moved beyond the repertoire of his father to explore the sounds of South African jazz, a style that has deep resonance within Darius’ own life. For 15 years Darius lived in South Africa, and in 1984 even founded the first university degree in jazz studies at the University of Natal. In 1988, he established the Jazzanians, the first multiracial student jazz ensemble to perform outside of South Africa and which in no small part echoed his father’s inclusion of black bassist Eugene Wright into his legendary quartet over 30 years previously. The quartet performed a handful of tunes from South African jazz legends, including Hugh Masekela’s ‘Nomali’ and Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘Tsakwe / Royal Blue’ and ‘Mannenberg’. Gibbens came alive during this set, his flurries of sticks, brushes, and bare hands providing infectiously danceable shuffle beats and complex polyrhythms. A feeling of up-tempo exuberance was tangible throughout, and the chemistry on show was a joy to experience.

The quartet also performed a rendition of ‘The Rainbow’, the only original composition by Darius of the evening. Dedicated to the famous Durban jazz club situated on the fringes of black and white communities, The Rainbow was a space where multi-racial music, despite its illegality at the time, continued to thrive during the years of apartheid. The story of this era in Darius’ career is still not so widely known to audiences in the UK, an era which Darius hinted will be centre stage for upcoming releases in the new year.

For an encore, the quartet performed a heart-warming cover of ‘Winter Wonderland’. Rearranged around a 5/4 time signature, this not only ended the gig on a suitably Christmassy note but also tied in with the rhythmic experimentation from the first set.

Wednesday, August 30 – Pizza Express Soho

The Darius Brubeck Quartet play Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London. Doors open at 6.30pm, show starts at 8pm.

Book your ticket

Thursday, August 31 – Aylesbury

The Darius Brubeck Quartet play St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Square, Aylesbury HP20 2JJ, hosted by Jazzupfront. Concert begins at 7.30, more info here.

Friday, November 24 – The Lighthouse, Poole

The Darius Brubeck Quartet will appear at The Lighthouse arts and entertainment venue, Poole. Early booking is advised!

Buy tickets

Tuesday, December 12 Hastings

Catch up with The DBQ at JazzHastings, booking info to here, scroll down a bit.

East Hastings Sea Angling Association
The Stade, Hastings, TN34 3JF
Doors open 7.45 for 8.30 start.

Wednesday, December 13 – Jazz Café Camden

The Darius Brubeck Quartet at The Jazz Café, Camden, London, “Darius Brubeck plays Dave Brubeck”.

Book your place here

Tuesday, June 20 2023 Book Launch Event USA

Playing the Changes, by Darius Brubeck and Catherine Brubeck

Book Launch Event – Playing the Changes: Jazz at an African University and on the Road (a memoir by Darius and Cathy Brubeck)

Wilton Library Brubeck Room 137 Old Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT, 06897 United States

Please join us for a special book launch event at Wilton Library – Playing the Changes: Jazz at an African University and on the Road (a memoir by Darius and Cathy Brubeck). As a bonus, we will also screen a companion documentary film directed by Dutch filmmaker Michiel ten Kleij.

No Charge. Registration required: please register online.

Saturday, July 22 – Battle

The Darius Brubeck Quartet Battle Festival Jazz Weekend (England). More details from the Battle Jazz Festival box office. 8pm.

July 24: Swing in Venasque, France

Swing in Venasque poster

The Darius Brubeck Quartet are special guests at Swing in Venasque in the Provençal village of Venasque (France). Concert starts at 7.30pm with support from The Ahmet Gublay Trio. Place du Baptitère, Venasque. More information

Book Tour, May-June 2023

Playing the Changes, by Darius Brubeck and Catherine Brubeck

Darius & Catherine Brubeck will be in South Africa for the whole of May 2023 promoting their book Playing the Changes: Jazz at an African University and on the Road, a memoir of the years from the ‘80’s through the early 2000’s they spent in South Africa. Darius initiated the first Jazz Studies course at an African university. He will also play with former members of two university bands he brought to the US in the 80s and 90s.

See below for dates and details.

May 20:

Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban)

Book Launch featuring discussion with the authors and a live set from

The NU Jazz Connection –Chris Merz (sax), S’thembiso Ntuli (sax), Feya Faku(tpt), Sazi Dlamini (gtr), Darius (p), Lex Futshane (bass). George Ellis replaces the late Lulu Gontsana on drums. The NU (Natal University) Jazz Connection went to the US and released a CD, African Tributes, in 1992.

Nu Jazz Connection
The Nu Jazz Connection

May 26:

Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, (University of Johannesburg) Music Encounters series:  Book launch with panel discussion and film clips.

May 31:

Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS)

Book Launch featuring discussion with the authors and a live set from four members of the original Jazzanians:  Nic Paton (sax), Darius (p), Victor Masondo (e.bass), Kevin Gibson (drums). The Jazzanians were the first South African student jazz group to tour overseas in 1988.

The Jazzanians original vinyl album cover

June 20:

USA book launch at the Wilton Library Brubeck Room in Wilton, Connecticut