Photograph: Chris Brubeck
The Metropolitan Symphony, an energetic and progressive civic ensemble in Minnesota, is presenting this Sunday a ninetieth-birthday tribute to Dave Brubeck. In the course of preparing for the event, Bill Schrickel, the Metropolitan's music director (also the acting principal bassist of the Minnesota Orchestra), received the above photograph of a remarkable self-portrait by Darius Milhaud, which has long been a prized possession of Brubeck's. Milhaud taught the jazz master at Mills College, in Oakland, and became a close friend. In the 1950s, Brubeck and his wife, Iola, set about building a home in Oakland, and one day Milhaud asked them to reserve "one square foot" for him, because in his wanderings he had come to feel homeless, and, he said, "I want to have some place I can stand and say, 'This is my own.'" In 1958, Milhaud visited the finished home and saw the "Milhaud place"—a spot in the hearth of the living-room fireplace. The next day, he sent along the self-portrait, all the lines of which are themes from his jazz-classical masterpiece, La Création du monde. The inscription says: "To the 7 Brubecks, the owner of the square foot. Souvenir of Création du monde, Milhaud 1958." The Brubecks had the portrait engraved in copper and placed it in the hearth. They subsequently moved east, but Milhaud lives with them to this day.