Event pays tribute to jazz great Brubeck

A group of jazz enthusiasts gathered Jan. 21 at First Westminster Church in Steubenville for a Dave Brubeck memorial jam session in honor of the jazz great who visited Steubenville on numerous occasions to perform with the Steubenville civic Choral Society.

Stephen Spurlock, Civic Choral Society co-founder, distributed Brubeck music to members of Civic Choral Society – music which they had sung in years past at sacred concerts featuring Brubeck and which many remembered.

Joe DeFazio helped out on piano. “They also were joined by members of our area’s brass family, namely, Lou Casini and Rob James, trumpet; Pat Garrett, trombone; Ed Parshall, tuba; and Dave Sacco, horn,” said Marti Spurlock, Civic Choral Society co-founder.

One of the highlights of the evening was soloist Emily Brown, who, accompanied by Wayne Spurlock, pianist, performed “Magnificat” from Brubeck’s “La Fiesta de la Posada.”

Throughout the evening, fellow musicians and the audience were treated to some familiar Brubeck quartet hits performed by jazz musicians frequently heard in the Pittsburgh area.

Sunny Sunseri enjoyed relaying stories and the history of each piece, according to Spurlock. The ensemble consisted of Sunseri on bass; DeFazio, piano; Don Aliquo, saxophone; and Gordon Grottenthaler on drums.

“There was a feeling of satisfaction by those attending the jam session, a feeling that we, as much as we were able, had paid tribute to the jazz legend,” Marti Spurlock said. “He had touched our hearts and stretched the possibilities of our lives.”

The Spurlocks organized the local informal “Sing Some Brubeck” tribute in honor of the society’s most memorable guest, an artist who had dedicated some of his time to writing sacred choral music and who performed with the Civic Choral Society on five occasions – in 1980, in 1982, in 1985, in 1991 and finally in 2007. His death on Dec. 5, 2012, at the age of 91 – just a day shy of his 92nd birthday – got the Spurlocks to thinking they wanted to do something locally in honor of him.