'It’s A Small World After All!‘
15 March, 2012
'It’s A Small World After All!‘

 

My first meeting with ‘an exquisite musical taste‘ person

An Academy Award for the “best score” along with seven Grammy Awards is pretty tough to beat in the music business. His name is indubitably not new to Jazz admirers; but what is, will leave many Georgians musicians (and probably historians) proud.

 

Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, Dave Grusin, 77, always knew that music would be his constant companion throughout life. His mother, a fine pianist and father, an immigrated violinist from

Latvia played a major role in realization of his and his brother’s talents. The influence by his father’s astute ideas and opinion shadowed any kind of training that could help Grusin develop feelings and character in his music. Grusin continued his education with an aspiration to become a musician at the University of Colorado which he graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree. He moved to New York and enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music in 1959 where he planned for a career in the academy. Instead, he soon found himself touring as a music director behind Andy Williams, a famous American singer, who later characterized Grusin as a person with “an exquisite musical taste”. During this time, Grusin met Larry Rosen, who became his partner in contemporary jazz label Grusin Rosen Productions (later known as GRP). They both launched their recording career in the mid-60’s with influences from other famous American musicians such as Art Tatum, Henry Mancini and Red Garland.

Before long, Grusin began composing music for films. To this day, he has scored music for about 100 films which include Divorce American Style, Heaven Can Wait and Tootsie. His vast musical spectrum, from classical to folk to rock and of course, jazz certainly has made him one of the premier music composers of the century. He has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Colorado and Berkley College of Music along with numerous other awards celebrating his talent and career. But the main reason why I am so excited to enlighten you about his accomplishments is his ancestry.

Two years ago, my father, grandfather and I attended Dave Grusin’s and Lee Ritenour’s concert at the very famous Blue Note, a jazz club in New York City. It was the first time that I had listened to his live concert and his beautiful music had me excited and longing to meet him. As the concert ended and the musicians took to their rooms, the crowd gathered outside their doors in anticipation to meet them and get their autographs. Well, our turn finally came. As we took our picture with Dave Grusin, we told him that we were his admirers from Georgia and asked him if he knew the origin of his last name. Why I asked? “Gruzin” in any Slavic language means Georgian. His name is pronounced the same way, so I thought it would be interesting if he might have had a Georgian ancestor, and if he knew anything about it. His answer was not what I was expecting. “Well,” he said “as a child growing up, my father would always tell me that I was the descendant of Georgian kings. And it wasn’t Grusin but it was Gruzinsky. That’s all I know about that.”

A quick Georgian history: Gruzinsky was the title of two different princely lines of the Bagrationi Dynasty. The descendants of this line are also known as Bagrtion-Gruzinsky. Before immigrating to the United States, his father’s family must have immigrated to Latvia from Georgia during the Russian Revolution. I was so shocked that I didn’t know what else to say to him. I felt like curtseying and saying “Thank you for the concert you majesty”, but realized it would look rather strange.

Unfortunately, that was all the time I had since there were so many people behind me waiting for their turn. My grandfather is also a descendant of this line and that moment felt like two long lost cousins had found each other. It was amazing and funny at the same time.

Regrettably, there is no information about Grusin’s father on-line, but I hope that some historian out there will be interested in digging deeper in this subject even if just for the sake of curiosity. I’m sure Dave Grusin himself, will be also very interested in finding out his history. I would like to quote the Sherman Brothers in connection with this story, and a recall the Disneyland tune, which goes with the words “It’s a small world after all!”

 

 

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