Dave Brubeck on going to Russia during the Cold War

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "Blue Rondo a La Turk," CD: Time Out Columbia/Legacy CK65122 (cut 1)

In the late 1950s, the U.S. State Department, under President Dwight Eisenhower, embarked upon a historic cultural diplomacy program in which American jazz musicians were sent abroad as cultural ambassadors. They traveled to such places as India, the Middle East, and even "behind the Iron Curtain." It was the height of the Cold War.

Dave Brubeck: If you listened to my recordings in Russia you could be sent to Siberia or worse. But the doctors and the nurses and the students would very carefully listen to these recordings and they had underground Jazz meetings all the time.

NEA Jazz Master Dave Brubeck recalls how clarinetist Benny Goodman's 1962 trip to Russia paved the way for his own subsequent visits.

Dave Brubeck: First went Benny Goodman -- well received -- and then much later but people think I was first because they've forgotten -- the United States had forgotten, the Russians hadn't forgotten -- that Benny Goodman came there. They wanted us to play in stadiums and I said and my manager said, "You know, we don't play in stadiums. We play in the best auditoriums; your concert halls." And they said, "It will be so mobbed that there's no concert hall that's going to hold this." Well, all ten concerts sold out in two hours. That's-- (laughs) that's what they think of Jazz.

MUSIC: up and fades

This Jazz Moment with pianist Dave Brubeck was created by the National Endowment.

Dave Brubeck on going to Russia during the Cold War