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Open Wide 'The Gates' To Dave Brubeck

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A landmark concert honors the California jazz great's lesser-known legacy of civil rights struggle and interfaith dialogue.

Dave Brubeck is a household name -- a neat trick for any jazz musician.

A half-century ago, he made the cover of Time magazine. Five years later, his quartet recorded Time Out, the first instrumental jazz album to sell a million copies. And Brubeck's image is quintessentially American: He grew up a cowboy-in-training, riding horses on a Concord, Calif., cattle ranch; served in Gen. George S. Patton's army in World War II; displayed radical invention with the odd-metered swing of his early hits; and, in the late 1950s, was tapped by President Eisenhower to represent Democratic values to Soviet-bloc nations. As tall and lean as ever, Brubeck is still performing at 83, and his legacy has not diminished with time.

Yet there's considerably more to Brubeck's profile. From the start, his passion for music spanned jazz and classical styles. Encouraged by his mother, a free-thinking choir director of a Presbyterian church, he developed a lifelong appreciation for religious music of all denominations, too. And, having lived through times of pointed racial strife, he's consistently turned awareness into action.

These aspects of Brubeck's story -- music without category, interfaith expression and social activism -- are central to the Brubeck Festival 2004, a weeklong event culminating in a concert at San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel Thursday, April 8.

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