Our preview piece on tonight’s performance by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet and the Lexington Philharmonic had to exclude, for reasons of length, a wonderful remembrance by Chris Brubeck of when his famous father, jazz titan Dave Brubeck, was inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009. As this year’s Honors ceremony was telecast earlier this week, we thought we would share Chris’ story of how the four Brubeck sons kept their performance at the telecast a secret from their dad until show time.
“Oh my God, we went to such amazing lengths for him to not know we were going to be there. For example, when my wife and I rode with my sister all the way from Connecticut to Washington, we didn’t even let my sister know that we were going to be doing it. And two of my brothers were actually hiding in different hotels in Washington so they couldn’t possibly run into my dad.
“My brother Darius and I… our dad knew we were in Washington because of a different ceremony that we were invited to. But dad also knew that the people getting the Kennedy Center Honors don’t get to play at the ceremony. It’s all done as a tribute. He said, ‘Oh, I’d sure love it if my sons would be the people that would play to honor me.’ The producers said, ‘We’re sorry, we really can’t do that. We’re going in a different direction.’
“The different direction was this incredible all-star band with Christian McBride and Bill Charlap and Bill Stewart, Miguel Zenon – all these great guys. And Herbie Hancock was in there. It was just unbelievable. But even live, my brothers and I were hidden behind this piece of scenery onstage. So our dad really, really had no idea we were also going to be there until we began playing.
“The producers always want to have what they call the ‘gotcha’ moment, emotionally, from the recipients. They want to catch that on camera. They told me that was one of their very favorite all-star takes of that moment. It was just so great. At the time, I thought that was probably the pinnacle of my dad’s life, the culmination of the whole mission our family has been working in during his lifetime, and it turned out to be true. He only played a few more years after that.”