Subscribe now for free! JAZZed. CLICK HERE to signup now!

A Visit to the Brubeck Archives

Jazzed Magazine • January 2018News • January 16, 2018

Share This:

By Antonio J. Garcia

This past summer marked my first trip to The University of the Pacific (Stockton, California) as a member of the Brubeck Institute Advisory Board. The mission of the Brubeck Institute ( is to build on Dave and Iola’s legacy and their lifelong dedication to music, creativity, education, and the advancement of social issues, including civil rights, environmental concerns, international relations, and social justice. Through performance, education, and outreach, the Institute continues Dave and Iola’s belief in our shared humanity and the power of music to connect audiences from all walks of life.

On my one full day in Stockton, I took advantage of a couple of unappointed hours to make an appointment with Mike Wurtz, the head of Holt-Atherton Special Collections at the University of the Pacific Library, where the Brubeck Collection is housed. I’ll share with you here some of my notes. Mike has granted me specific permission to share the related images with you.

Personal Picks

The entrance to the archives includes a montage of images and items that span much of Dave Brubeck’s career and life with Iola Brubeck.

Mike had asked in advance what I might want to explore during my brief time at the collection. I’d replied that when I get in a taxi in a new city, I like to ask the driver what excites him/her there. When I talk to a jazz colleague, I want to know something similar. And so I’d be delighted if he’d show me some of “Mike’s Picks” – some of the things that excite him about the collection.

The collection offers some great online resources for exploring what one might want to research. Start at and click on “Brubeck Collection.” There you will find links to a detailed inventory, digitized materials including a video oral history with Dave and Iola, and other collections at Pacific that are related to Brubeck, such as the Paul Desmond Papers.

Some of the online listings initially caught my eye. I enjoy recorded interviews but knew I would not have time this visit to experience those. I enjoy historical photographs, so Mike showed me some of his favorites from the 1950s and 60s in particular, including from the 1958 Dave Brubeck Quartet tour of Europe and Asia sponsored by the U.S. State Department, along with later photos spanning the Reagan-Gorbachev summit.

But musically speaking, I enjoy examining unfinished manuscripts, once in particular having had the memorable pleasure years ago of comparing in depth a half-dozen drafts of the composition “Laurie” by the pianist Bill Evans. So I noted that the Brubeck Collection had listed a number of manuscript sketches, some with words by Iola Brubeck, and greatly enjoyed what Mike then showed me.

A Living Archive

One of the differences between the Brubeck Collection and so many others is that keeping with the Brubeck’s charge to make the collection a “living archive,” visitors can handle almost any of the materials directly. Whether an undergraduate student at Pacific or a visiting researcher, the material is available to you first-hand.

“The Brubeck Collection is exemplary in the diverse ways that it can be used,” explains Wurtz. “We frequently instruct students in history, psychology, and business to use the collection because it shows—like all of our collections—that no collection is one-dimensional. The Brubeck Collection is not only about ‘Take Five’ or Dave Brubeck. It can be used to study international diplomacy, family life, and most importantly, civil rights.

“Brubeck’s record of integrating his bands and his audiences during WWII, 1960’s U.S. South, and mid-70s South Africa is well documented with clippings and letters. One of the most remarkable letters comes from Brubeck’s New York booking company, encouraging him to find a white bass-player while he is touring the south.

“Dave refused; the tour was cancelled at a great financial loss; but Dave’s message was clear.”

Following The Trail

You could sample a bit of how Brubeck himself learned. Available at the Brubeck Collection is a sketch of a musical exercise he’d composed at the request of his very brief teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, during Brubeck’s active military service, with Dave’s own reflection from a later time written at the bottom.

Significant to me is that Brubeck, who had not thrived in written music while in college, felt confident enough to draft this exercise in pen! There were evolutionary trails in the music. For example, laying the draft of “You Know I Want You Back” side by side with a printed lead sheet of “Bossa Nova U.S.A.,” you could see why the top of the former page includes a note that the earlier sketch “became Bossa Nova U.S.A. about 10 years after this original.”

A close-up shows how in the eventually newer version Brubeck has changed the key and meter.

You can hear the resulting tune on the 1963 album of the same name; much of the music referenced within this article can be also heard on YouTube.

How did the musical germ for Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” written as a dedication to Iola, take form? There are resemblances – and differences – within this brief sketch.

You can hear one version of the eventual tune from its first recording on the 1956 album Brubeck Plays Brubeck. Brubeck stated in the liner notes to another album that he’d composed this tune in one evening.

Iola wrote lyrics to many of his tunes, whether released or not. I was fascinated by this sketch with her lyrics on a draft of “Briar Patch Rainy Day Blues,” composed by Dave in Briar Patch, Alabama, with her lyrics in printed hand, plus alternate or second-verse lyrics in script beneath them.

I don’t believe there are commercially released versions of this tune, though the collection lists an unreleased recording of the Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring vocalist Jimmy Rushing and “Briar Patch, Take 10.”

Adding to the Collection

Many of the sketches present were represented identically on the eventual recordings. One such page was what seemed as an original alto sax part for Paul Desmond of the bridge melody of “Blue Rondo a la Turk” from Brubeck’s legendary “Time Out” album of 1959.

Or there was Dave’s original piano fragment of his composition “The World’s Fair,” from his 1963 album, Time Changes:

This fragment had actually not been formally identified as from “The World’s Fair” until I pointed it out.

I’d had a former student at Northwestern University, now Dr. Rick Selva, who had written his dissertation on “The Saxophone In Sacred Music,” including interviews with Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Bobby Militello. In later years Selva hosted his own Dave Brubeck Tribute weekend at Schoolcraft, where Selva teaches, with guest artist Russell Gloyd, who had served as Dave Brubeck’s symphonic and choral director for Dave’s many sacred works over the years. Realizing that Selva’s materials were not in the Brubeck Collection, I was promptly able to connect Rick with Mike Wurtz, and now the Collection includes Selva’s dissertation, audio recordings of interviews, photos, and also materials from the Schoolcraft tribute.

Visiting the Original Score

I had been very fortunate to perform Brubeck’s oratorio “Voice of the Holy Spirit” as a tenor and bass trombonist within the orchestra surrounding the Brubeck Quartet in Richmond in 2005 under Russell Gloyd’s direction so enjoyed looking at the 1985 score and its penciled annotations. You can hear the opening and this following page on the London Symphony recording of the work.

Desmond’s Lessons

The archives of Brubeck’s longtime musical colleague and the credited composer of “Take Five,” Paul Desmond, are also in the Pacific collection as the “Paul Desmond Papers.” At age 22, married, broke, and debating about becoming a short-story writer or continuing as a musician or both, he wrote the following excerpt of many pages.

Such doubts are not uncommon in music students or young alums! Desmond also benefited from very determined action plans, with notes as to music-business approaches. Music students and young alums can benefit from this as well.


In addition to the Brubeck and Desmond Collections, Pacific houses a number of other related collections. The David van Kriedt Papers include a number of scores and parts van Kriedt had created as a member of the Dave Brubeck Octet. The Howard Brubeck Papers of Dave’s older brother consists of musical scores by Howard Brubeck, plus some letters from Howard to Dave and Iola in 1961 and 1962. The Susan Matheson Collection on Iola Brubeck represents Matheson’s study of and thesis on Iola, with recorded interviews and transcripts conducted from 1995 to 1999 with various musicians and individuals involved with the Brubecks from both a musical and business perspective. The Iola Brubeck Letters to Mary Jeanne Sauerwein consist of dozens of letters and postcards from Iola Brubeck to a close family friend between 1947 and 2000.

All in all, my visit to the Brubeck Collection and Desmond Papers was an invigorating and inspiring trip through an important time in jazz history. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can explore its listings and some of its offerings online at the links above, but I encourage anyone on the west coast to visit it personally.

If you live elsewhere but have focused research to do at the Brubeck Collection, note that the University of the Pacific Library offers an annual $1,500 research travel grant, awarded as reimbursement for travel and lodging expenses incurred while visiting Stockton, California. The grant is open to students, professors, and independent researchers. The application deadline is July 31, the award is made in August, and travel must occur before September of the following year. To apply for the grant, send a one- to two-page vitae and a one- to two-page proposal describing the research project and how it will involve the Brubeck Collection. With the Centennial of Dave Brubeck’s birth arriving in 2020, now is an especially fine time to research one of the world’s greatest musicians and musical ambassadors.

Trombonist, vocalist, composer, and educator Antonio García is director of jazz studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is an executive board member of The Midwest Clinic, advisory board member of The Brubeck Institute, associate jazz editor of the International Trombone Association Journal, past editor of the IAJE Jazz Education Journal, and network expert (improvisation materials) for the Jazz Education Network. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores improv-course objectives and grading. Read his 2001 interview of Brubeck, “Dave Brubeck: His Music Keeps Us Here,” at

Image Gallery

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!