… actually started as a mystery. To do a CD of vocal versions of Brubeck’s music, we needed an official Dave Brubeck songbook that included the sheet music from his publisher, so we could make sure we had the correct words to the songs that had them. Step one! But such a collection didn’t seem to exist. No definitive source came up in our search online, just multiple versions of lyrics for a few songs and conflicting lyricist credits for the same song in some cases. So we didn’t know which, if any, of the lyrics were “official.” … Hmmm. … We were stalled until the day producer Ted Howe made contact with a representative for the Brubeck estate who, after talking with Ted and vetting the project a bit, said that an old songbook did exist, and he’d get back to us.
A couple of weeks later, in early 2014, Ted received in the mail a photocopy of “Dave Brubeck Song Book.” The songbook had been published decades ago and was long out of print. The copy came to us from our contact with the estate, who’d gotten it from Iola Brubeck. I’ve described receiving it as a “magical musical moment,” and that is absolutely how it felt to me.
Still, what would we find inside? We’d been told Iola Brubeck had written most of the lyrics, but having never heard them, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m a singer, I want to love the words! So it was wonderful to find song after song full of imagery and moodiness. The words were sophisticated, poetic, clever. Some were nostalgic. Plenty were romantic with hopeful or melancholy stories inside. There were the songs from the musical Iola and Dave had written together, “The Real Ambassadors.” And lyrics I’d never heard for classic Brubeck Quartet tunes such as “Strange Meadowlark,” “The Duke” and “In Your Own Sweet Way.” Some held surprises — I’ll post about that in blogs coming describing the tracks on the CD [“Karla Harris Sings the Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook”] and thoughts behind the arrangements.
Some of these songs hadn’t been recorded vocally since the ’60s, to our knowledge, when Carmen McRae guested at a performance of the Brubeck Quartet and a live recording was done. And according to our contact, no one had ever gone into the studio to record them collectively. We were set to go there at that point, thanks to receiving a copy of that elusive Songbook!