Dave Brubeck takes five for the Y

For the second year in a row, Dave Brubeck and his quartet performed at the YMCA of M.V.'s summer fundraiser
Photo by Ralph Stewart

For the second year in a row, Dave Brubeck and his quartet performed at the YMCA of M.V.'s summer fundraiser

Hundreds of the Vineyard’s best-heeled residents gathered before sunset in Katama Sunday evening to watch jazz great Dave Brubeck tickle the ivories. The concert, held at one of the Island’s poshest clubs, the Boathouse Field Club, benefited the Island’s newest recreation center, the Y of Martha’s Vineyard, in Oak Bluffs. It was the second year in a row that the star musician helped raise funds for the Y.

“How many people ever thought this thing would be built?” asked Chuck Hughes, president of the Y board of directors, referring to the Y’s uphill battle to build a swimming and exercise center on the backs of local donations. “It’s built! It’s a beautiful place,” he told the cheering crowd, who paid $350 for the twilight concert set beneath a grand white tent. Since opening its doors six weeks ago, the Y has served more than 3,000 people, drawing 400 to 500 visits each day.

“It’s such a unique experience to walk into a community that’s never had a Y and watch the community embrace it,” said Jill Robie, Y of M.V. executive director. “No longer will people be living on an island where they are learning how to sail and not learning how to swim.”

Musician Kate Taylor, who introduced Mr. Brubeck before his set, said Islanders had been talking about the need to build a pool for local children for more than 20 years. “It really happened, it finally happened,” she told the crowd, who nibbled on lavish hors d’oeuvres and sipped wine and champagne throughout the evening.

With much to celebrate at this year’s event, organizers promised not to host an auction or call for additional donations, as they had done the previous year, when what was previously called the YMCA was little more than a steel shell. “But anything you can do to help us pay down our $3.5 million mortgage, we’d appreciate it,” quipped Jim Swartz, co-chairman of the Y’s Major Gifts Committee. Organizers also said that they had debt to cover, and that several thousand dollars were needed to build a gymnasium.

Taking his seat at the grand piano for the first time that evening, Mr. Brubeck told the crowd that he had drawn inspiration from the fundraising theme. “I’m going to start with ‘Pennies from Heaven’,” he said, before launching into a nearly 90-minute set that drew multiple standing ovations.

Now 89 years old, Mr. Brubeck, who made a name for himself by employing tricky rhythms in hit songs such as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” has shown little signs of bending to time’s common constraints. “I don’t know if there’s intermission or what,” he wondered aloud at one point. “No intermission? Great,” he said, as he cued up the quartet for several more jazz standards.

“We must have done something right twice,” said Ms. Taylor, who claimed she was honored to stand on the same stage as Mr. Brubeck, who often played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. “This man doesn’t just play music; he is music…We don’t need the Library of Congress to tell us that this is a living legend.”