When the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (BBQ) takes the stage Friday night, March 23 at the Ridgefield Playhouse, it will be a walk down memory lane for many reasons. Playing in a venue that is perhaps the closest thing to home court advantage, these “hometown boys” who grew up in Wilton will undoubtedly have lots of familiar faces in the sea of loyal fans in the audience.

“It’s fun to play for people that know you,” Chris Brubeck says. “It’s really fun in your hometown.”

The BBQ is headed up by Chris (bass and trombone), and his brother, Dan Brubeck (drums), the two youngest sons of the late Jazz legend Dave Brubeck and Iola Brubeck. The brothers are touring with their band mates Mike DeMicco (guitar) and Chuck Lamb (piano) to promote their latest CD, TimeLine. The story behind this album is the other part of the Brubeck’s journey down memory lane.

The just-released album celebrates the 60th anniversary of Dave Brubeck’s historic State Department Tour through Europe and Asia. This new recording includes fresh arrangements of songs written by Dave during and after the 1958 tour inspired by what he experienced on his travels, as well as compelling new original songs by the quartet too.

In 1958, the Cold War was on, and the US and Russia were engaged in cultural warfare. The Voice of America radio programs broadcast jazz to hungry fans trapped on the other side of the Iron Curtain. With the idea of promoting democracy and building bridges to the artistic and intellectual communities of these occupied countries, a new strategy of presenting live concerts through a special program called “President Eisenhower’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations” was born. Jazz musicians and the “cool” caché they brought were one of its secret weapons. Dave Brubeck and his band were sent on a three-month, 14 country trans-Atlantic tour as official “Jazz Ambassadors” for America.

“There’s something about Jazz and its freedom of expression, and that it’s really American, it represents democracy. It represents America. Someone in the Eisenhower administration was smart enough to say, ‘That’s what’s special, that’s what we’re exporting,’” Chris explains.

This landmark tour started in England, then went on to Sweden, Denmark, and West Germany; it moved on through East Berlin to Poland, and onward to Turkey, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Later in life, Dave looked back and reflected on the Quartet’s incorporation of the multi-cultural music they heard on that tour as one of the early efforts to fuse “world music” into jazz.

As Chris writes in the liner notes for TimeLine, the album celebrates “… that achievement and the impact that 80-concert Eurasian tour had on Dave’s music, American culture, the jazz world and our family. That 1958 tour inspired some of Dave’s most memorable tunes and was an important part of our family history. There is a Timeline between my family’s personal memories and our musical evolution through the years.”

Chris was only 5-years-old when his parents went abroad; Dan was two and sister Cathy was four. “We remember when our mom and dad left. Three months, that was a long time!” says Chris.

But the stories Dave told his kids about the trip on his return became part of family legend.

“It was the first time my dad went to England and they were huge fans there–it really shocked my dad how popular they were, they were really nuts about Brubeck,”Chris recalls.

The stop in Poland led to one of Brubeck’s sentimental compositions called Dziękuję, which is Polish for ‘thank you.’ Dave wrote the song as a ‘Thank You’ to the Polish audiences that came to hear him play.

“Some people spoke to him before the show in the dressing room. They said, ‘Mr. Brubeck, we are here and have filled this hall because we love your music. Everyone is so excited. However, if we show you that we’re excited, the [communist] police officers watching everyone, they will end the concert just to be mean. They’ll take it away from us. So we’re going to applaud very politely and unenthusiastically. It’s not how we feel in our hearts. It’s because we really want to hear you.”

To add to the special connection, Chris adds that five years ago, on his own tour at a Polish jazz festival, he was approached by a group of people in their 90s. “They came to us and said, ‘We were at the exact concert when your father played “Dziękuję,”‘ tearing up. That’s an example, in its own way of how this little incident was very significant.”

Other tunes on TimeLine reflect the international influences Dave felt while on tour. When he listened to street musicians in Istanbul, playing a beat he’d never heard before, he figured out it was in 9/8 time, wrote a melody that fit, and borrowed the Rondo form from classical music. When he realized he was straying from jazz, he added in American blues to create his groundbreaking masterpiece song—”Blue Rondo a la Turk,” what Chris says was a “revolutionary thing in Jazz.”

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet puts their own spin on those and several other tunes on TimeLine, along with several new originals written in tribute to the tour Dave made. One of those is called “Prime Directive,” written by Chuck Lamb, referring to the “official speak” of the State Department sending Dave out to “conquer hearts and minds with Jazz.”

It’s something Dave’s sons and their partners in music continue to do today, carrying on the family business of wooing audiences and stealing hearts, by interpreting the past, weaving in current influences and paying tribute to the traditions of the Jazz genre and the pathway blazed by their patriarch. While you have the Time, you should catch the BBQ while they’re close to home.

And when you do, don’t forget to say, “Dziękuję.”

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will perform at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Friday, March 23, at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $37.50 and available on the Ridgefield Playhouse website.

*Some material adapted from liner notes provided by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet.