Born in San Francisco in 1947, jazz pianist and composer Darius Brubeck grew up in the artistic milieu of his famous father Dave and has enjoyed a lifetime of varied international experience as bandleader, composer, teacher and broadcaster. The Brubeck family moved to Connecticut in 1960 where Darius attended high school and graduated cum laude from Wesleyan University where he studied ethnomusicology and history of religion. He also holds an M. Phil. from Nottingham University where he was a Visiting Fellow in Music in 1999-2000.
After graduation in 1969 and some experiments with different kinds of music, Darius was ushered into the international jazz scene in the Seventies as a member of Two Generations of Brubeck and The New Brubeck Quartet (Dave, Darius, Chris and Dan Brubeck) under his father’s leadership but also continued playing intermittently with his own groups.
He married Catherine, an expat South African living in New York, and moved to Durban, South Africa in 1983, where he initiated the first degree course in Jazz Studies offered by an African university. Together, they founded and developed the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal six years later,where, as Professor of Jazz Studies, Darius taught until 2005. He has also served as a Fulbright visiting professor in Romania and Turkey. Darius Brubeck and Afro Cool Concept, which featured some of South Africa’s premier musicians, played throughout southern Africa, Europe, and the USA and recorded for the Sheer Sound label. He also collaborated with virtuoso bansuri player, Deepak Ram, using the name Gathering Forces for ‘world-music’ concerts. From 1989 onward, Brubeck led staff-student groups representing his university and South Africa on official tours, attending conferences and giving workshops and concerts in Europe, North and South America, Turkey, and Thailand.
Moving to the United Kingdom on retirement from full-time teaching in 2006, Darius now leads the London based Darius Brubeck Quartet, which has now an international following and since 2010 also tours annually with his brothers Chris and Dan in Brubecks Play Brubeck.
Darius and his wife/manager Catherine return to South Africa every year where he remains an honorary research professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Darius regularly appears at academic conferences related to jazz studies, presenting papers and joining panels. The Brubecks were jointly awarded a writing grant in 2017 by STIAS (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study) and again in 2019. The couple are writing a book about their jazz life in South Africa during the turbulent and hope-filled period leading up to the first democratic election in 1994.
Darius has composed and arranged across a range of styles from string trio to full orchestra, as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and others. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra commissioned Darius and Zim Ngqawana, to set extracts from speeches by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to music, read by Morgan Freeman. In 2005, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded him a residency as a composer at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. ‘For Lydia’ was selected for the 2013-2014 Grade 5 Piano Syllabus by the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music and the 2018-2019 Grade VI syllabus includes his ‘Tugela Rail.’
The theme of cultural diplomacy figured large in 2018 and will continue to build this year. A WNET/BBC4 TV co-production titled ‘The Jazz Ambassadors,’ about jazz diplomacy during the Cold War featured an extensive interview with Darius. (https://vimeo.com/255776114)
Darius went to Poland in February 2018 where he played with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as a guest and returned in March with his Quartet for a concert on the 60th anniversary of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s famous 1958 world tour. (Incidentally, Szczecin, Poland is where Darius made his un-planned stage debut as an 10-year old accompanying his parents.) The DBQ returned to Poland again in November 6 – 18 for a tour of the cities visited on the original 1958 tour by his father’s quartet. (A ‘live in Poland’ CD will be forthcoming.) A film crew shadowed this tour and will follow Darius and Catherine to South Africa this year, making a documentary about his life as an unofficial jazz ambassador.
“Darius, the eldest [of Dave Brubeck’s sons] and most visually like his father, plays stylish piano and knows the score.”Jack Massarik, Evening Standard