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RIP: Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

The BBC has a nice, concise obituary of the cowboy turned jazz composer and musician who died of a heart attack a week before his 92nd birthday.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet ruled the college jazz circuit for years, and you couldn’t go a week on a college radio station without having someone request a cut from the crossover album Time Out. The most productive and longest lasting version of the Quartet featured Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Joe Morello on drums, and Eugene Wright on bass.

Obviously the two biggest hits were Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” and Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, but the common theme of the album was the use of unconventional time signatures, 5/4 in the case of “Take Five” and 9/8 for “Blue Rondo”.

I haven’t heard those two cuts for years, and am certainly not musically gifted, but I can still ‘hear’ them when I see the titles. Be aware that listening to the album will draw you in and you will soon be listening to Dizzy, Miles, Thelonious …


1 Steve Bates { 12.06.12 at 4:36 pm }

Also be aware that Brubeck, with the Quartet or with other assorted trios etc., recorded hours and hours of fine music, much of it live at festivals, some of it in studio. A gigantic quantity of it is now available in 𝅘𝅥𝅮cheep-cheep𝅘𝅥𝅮 CD boxed sets. (Forewarning: audio quality is uneven.) Similarly, a lot of the works of the Octet (pre-Quartet days; some other famous names) have been remastered and sold at bargain prices. In my youth, I had “Time Out” and “Time in Outer Space,” and longed for one or two more albums; now I have, really and truly, to the extent the phrase can ever be meaningful, “enough Brubeck” to last a lifetime. Yes, I’ve listened to all of it. Yes, I heard him once live with the Quartet. Sigh.

Brubeck and his equally excellent side men were mighty inspirations for the jazz trio (occasionally with added sax) my high school buddies and I formed. I think we had three gigs ever, but damn, were we ever inspired! R.I.P., Dave; we miss you!

2 Bryan { 12.06.12 at 10:13 pm }

The biggest problem with jazz recordings is that the tune was different every time the group played it. Brubeck and Desmond would feed off each other, and challenge each other. Just as amazing was the ability of Wright and Morello to back whatever they did, as well as adding their own spice when there was an opportunity. Four people who really could achieve a ‘hive mind’ and create a unique moment.

Jazz is always better when the musicians can feed off the energy of the audience. I heard some great stuff at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, and nothing matched the recordings of the groups I caught.

The jazz was in the basement, and upstairs was the rock, which featured groups that became very well known, but I stayed in the basement.

Ronnie Scott was a British tenor player, a lot of talented people were always in the audience, and jams happened.

Brubeck was important because he spread the music out of the clubs, which created opportunities for other people to make a living doing what they loved and were good at.

3 Kryten42 { 12.07.12 at 2:56 am }

That is very saddening… I grew up on Jazz & Rock. Melbourne has always been the Center of Jazz since the 20’s. I used to be a regular at the Victorian Jazz Club (which was started in the 60’s), where you got beer in a big tankard, every table had a chess/checker board, and they always played Jazz/Blues, and often had live performances. If I was on my own and sat at a table, I wouldn’t be alone for long. Someone would come over and ask if I wanted a game. 🙂 I made several friends that way. 🙂 Many Australian Jazz musicians had their start there, and quite a few made it big in the USA. 🙂

Still, at least Dave Brubeck had a great run and seemed to be enjoying his life. He was still performing in his 80’s! He has a huge Discography, with many incarnations. His music will live on for a very long time I am sure. (and of course, now that he is gone, we can expect many *re releases* and *specials*). *shrug*

RIP Dave Brubeck. You were and are a great artist. You will be missed.

4 Steve Bates { 12.07.12 at 9:20 am }

“Still, at least Dave Brubeck had a great run and seemed to be enjoying his life.” – kryten

Emphatically, yes, to the very NOT-bitter end. I chose this Brubeck quote for the masthead of my blog for the past few days: “When you’ve gone through something like World War II as a young man, you face the idea that life is very precious. So I feel about life as I always have: Under any circumstances, go for it.”


5 Bryan { 12.07.12 at 6:54 pm }

He could have led a quiet life composing music in his home, but he really liked performing. He wanted/needed the reaction of a live audience to know if people understood what he was trying to say in his compositions.

He got to do what he wanted and was good at it for a very long time, long enough to be joined in performance by his children, and then his grandchildren.

6 Steve Bates { 12.09.12 at 11:55 pm }

Regarding the problem of jazz CDs (or whatever medium of recording) always playing the same solos, sometimes that can be a virtue for a beginning jazzer to hear. OTOH, our friend Catherine (photo site linked from my blog) plays jazz flute, and reached a level of aural skill at which she really needed NOT to hear the same solo all the time. Her solution: satellite radio, with a subscription that covered stations in the several styles she usually plays. Virtually every tune is a new-to-her arrangement.

My “solution” (not that I’m really a jazz player): Radio Swiss Jazz, the best jazz station on the web, bar none. Google it. If you don’t hear something you like one time, try it a few hours later. Styles aside, the quality level is uncompromisingly high.

7 Bryan { 12.10.12 at 9:37 am }

The great thing about jazz is that it doesn’t get stale. The basic frame work of a tune stays the same, but the interior gets refreshed every time it is played, even by the same performer(s). This used to be case in classical music with composers leaving room for individual players to improvise, but those spaces have been filled over the years by the ‘approved’ version. That’s how the music dies – when it is separated from the creative side of the equation.