Bennett & Brubeck - The White House Sessions, Live 1962 will be available Tuesday, May 28.
One of the great lost treasures of American musical history, the Tony Bennett-Dave Brubeck White House Seminar performance came about when the artists--each already on the bill with his own ensemble--agreed to seize the moment with an impromptu set. While the Bennett-Brubeck recording of "That Old Black Magic" had surfaced on the occasional compilation (Brubeck's 1971's out-of-print LP, Summit Sessions, and 2001's Vocal Encounters), the rest of the Bennett and Brubeck performances--an hour's worth of music--were a mythical lost object in the Sony Music Entertainment vaults until finally surfacing through a fortuitous discovery last December, just weeks after Brubeck's passing on December 5, 2012 (one day shy of his 92nd birthday).
1962 was a pivotal time in American cultural and musical history and for the artists on this recording. Just seventeen days before the White House Seminar American Jazz Concert , Tony Bennett had entered the Billboard charts with his signature song, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," and there is an ebullience in Tony's performances and a palpable excitement of the college-age audience in their recognition of Tony's on-fire success. Dave Brubeck 's "Take Five" had become emblematic of jazz itself and, in 1962, Brubeck's band was picked as the best combo in jazz by Down Beat magazine readers and DJs surveyed by Billboard.
With both Bennett and Brubeck at the top of their respective games, the masters play off and with each other to create a spontaneous collaborative music that stands with the best of each of their work.
It would be 47 years before Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck would share a stage again to make music when they both appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2009 and performed "That Old Black Magic," one of the standards they'd immortalized in Washington in August 1962.
In his liner notes to the album, noted jazz historian Ted Gioia observes, "Both had arrived at stardom, but were seemingly stars from different galaxies.
"Yet these two beloved musicians also had much in common. Both had served in World War II, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Both were active in the Civil Rights Movement—not long before this recording was made, Brubeck canceled 23 concerts rather than replace his African-American bassist Eugene Wright , and Bennett would soon be marching with Martin Luther King in Montgomery, Alabama. But these two artists were musically simpatico as well. They shared a devotion to the great American songbook, and knew how to straddle the worlds of jazz and popular music without compromises or crass commercialism, yet still reach millions of people, many of whom would never step inside a jazz club or read a copy of Down Beat.
"So what a blessing to have these tracks from the past, a true meeting of musical masters, come to us more than half-century after they were made, but still sounding as fresh and alive as they did to those present back in 1962. The concert that day was held to honor college students who had come to Washington D.C. to work for the summer—in fact, they had met earlier that day with President Kennedy. Historians often use the phrase 'the best and the brightest' to refer to the smart, idealistic people who gravitated to government service in those years, but I would apply those same words to the artists on stage that day. And after hiding out in a dark archive for so many decades, the music of two of the best and brightest to ever interpret the American popular song is shining for us once more."