Brubeck closed his set at the George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 at Newport, R.I., on Sunday with his quartet's classic "Take Five," which he recorded 50 years ago. A few songs into Bennett's set, Brubeck returned to the stage at Fort Adams State Park to perform with the singer for the first time in 47 years.
"We decided to do a Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer song called `That Old Black Magic,'" said Bennett in an interview Sunday. "Harold Arlen is my favorite composer through the years ... It's one of the great jazz songs of all time."
That was also the same tune that Bennett sang with Brubeck's quartet outside the White House on Aug. 28, 1962 _ a recording included on compilation albums by both artists. Although they were friends and labelmates at Columbia Records that was their only performance together until Newport.
The inspiration for their second performance came from documentary filmmaker Bruce Ricker. Ricker learned that the two music legends were performing back-to-back sets Sunday at the close of George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 at Newport, R.I.
Ricker had already done a film on Bennett, and was working on separate documentaries about Brubeck and Johnny Mercer (marking the centennial of the lyricist's birth). Clint Eastwood, an avid jazz fan, has been involved both off and on screen as a producer and presenter.
"Clint Eastwood was pushing for this ... and Bruce finally got everybody together. ... You don't want to mess with Clint," laughed the 88-year-old Brubeck, in a telephone interview Monday from his home in western Connecticut.
Brubeck said he thought the performance turned out well, especially since there was no rehearsal and little talk before the pair went on stage.
"You're taking a lot of chances when you do something in front of such a critical public without time to run down with everybody. ... You feel very elated that it all came off."
Brubeck rarely plays behind singers now, but earlier in his career he recorded with Carmen McRae and Louis Armstrong, among others,
Bennett got a thrill from playing with Brubeck.
"What I loved about it was he's such an inspiration to me," the 83-year-old Bennett said. "He shows me that I'm still learning, that we are not finished yet and he is such a great teacher."