Friday, December 7, 2012

Dave Brubeck Passes On

Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck died on 5 December 2012 at the age of 91. It was the day before his birthday (6 December).

Dave Brubeck was born in Concord, California on 6 December 1920. His father was a cattle rancher, while his mother was an English expatriate who had planned to become a concert pianist. Mr. Brubeck then not only learned to play piano, but various other instruments as well. He first performed publicly when he was only 14. He attended the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, but within a year switched to music.  In 1942, following his graduation, Mr. Brubeck joined the United States Army. He played in the Army band at Camp Haan, North Carolina for two years before he was made a rifleman and eventually sent to Metz, France, in the expectation that he would serve in combat. He was saved in combat when his commanding officer heard him playing piano with a Red Cross travelling show one day. His commanding officer made certain he was assigned to a band that would entertain the troops.

Following World War II he attended Mills College where he studied under French composer Darius Milhaud. It was in 1946 that Mr. Brubeck formed his first jazz group, an octet. It was in 1951 that he formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The group toured colleges and had success with their recordings. In 1954 Mr. Brubeck became only the second jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time (the first had been Louis Armstrong). It was in 1954 that he signed with Columbia Records. His most legendary album, Time Out, was released in 1959. The album featured what may be Dave Brubeck's best known piece, "Take Five." The album also featured  another hit, "Blue Rondo à la Turk." Time Out was followed by the similar albums  Time Further Out: Miro Reflections (1961), Countdown: Time in Outer Space  (1962), Time Changes (1963), and Time In (1966).  In 1967 The Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded.

Following the disbanding of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Mr. Brubeck began concentrating on longer, orchestral pieces. He formed another quartet in 1968. He would both record and perform with them often. Dave Brubeck continued to work into 2011.

Dave Brubeck was easily one of the most successful jazz musicians of all time, one of the few who saw success on the pop charts in the Fifties and Sixties. "Take Five" would be ubiquitous in those decades, even serving for a time as the them to the Today show. He was very innovative, incorporating ideas from European composition into American jazz. He was also exceedingly versatile. He not only composed shorter jazz pieces, but oratorios, concertos, and musicals as well. What makes all of this even more remarkable is that Mr. Brubeck never made a big deal of his success. His reaction to Time featuring on their cover was that Duke Ellington should have had a cover before he did. He led a relatively quiet life. He never drank nor did drugs. and he was married to the same woman for years. A man of great modesty, he was also a man of great talent.

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