Biography, CDs and concert review
Added on December 5, 2012
Dave Brubeck has died today,
just one day
before his 92nd birthday. Another jazz legend has left us. His music will
by Dave Brubeck.
Article added on July 10, 2001
Biography of Dave
Dave (David Warren) Brubeck was born in
Concord, California, on December 6, 1920. Until the age of 11, he received
early training in classical music from his mother, a pianist and teacher.
Two of Dave's brothers are music teachers and four of his sons are
professional jazz musicians.
By the age of 13, Dave was performing
professionally with local jazz groups. He received a B.A. in music from the
College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He studied composition with
the classical composer Darius Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland,
California. From 1940-42 he played in The Band That Jumps. Then he joined
the army and played with the Wolf Pack Band in Europe (1944-45). After
discharge, he went back to study with Milhaud between 1946-49. With fellow
students, Dave founded the experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble which started
recording in 1949 as the Dave Brubeck Octet. It included Paul Desmond (Paul
Emil Breitenfeld: 1924-77), Cal Tjader and Bill Smith.
[added on April 7, 2010 thanks to our reader Paul Wood: The Dave Brubeck
Octet, a formation mostly composed of Mills' students, experimented with
jazz. During this period, Dave performed with other bands in the San
Francisco area to support his wife in children. In 1949, he created the Dave
Brubeck Trio together with Cal Tjader on drums and Ron Crotty on bass. With
this trio, Brubeck gained more notoriety, which led to recording with
Fantasy Records. Brubeck's superimposed music in 6/4 meter was considered an
innovation, since jazz standards were in 4/4 meter. Some criticized it as
lacking the swing essential to jazz.].
In 1949, Dave created the Dave Brubeck Trio
with smooth-swinging bassist Gene Wright and hard-swinging drummer Joe
Morello. In 1951, with the addition of the lyrical and witty alto
saxophonist Paul Desmond , it became the famous original Dave Brubeck
Quartet (1951-67). It was one of the most popular jazz groups of all time,
selling millions of records. In 1954, Brubeck even made the cover of Time
magazine. The LP Time Out, recorded and released in 1959, was the
first jazz album to sell over one million copies.
Despite his popularity, Brubeck was an
experimental musician who introduced unusual time signatures such as 5/4,
5/8, 9/8, 7/4 and 11/4 to jazz. Paul Desmond's Take Five is in 5/4
metre. It was relased together with Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk
in 9/8 metre, grouped 2+2+2+3, on Time Out.
In 1959, Brubeck appeared with Leonard
Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic orchestra. In the early 1960s, he began to
compose extended works including Points on Jazz for the American
Ballet and the musical theater piece The Real Ambassadors, written
with the help of his wife Iola, a lyricist.
In 1967 Brubeck disbanded the Dave Brubeck
Quartet to concentrate on
composing. In 1968, he formed a new quartet that included the more swinging
Gerry Mulligan in place of the retiring Paul Desmond as well as Alan
Dawson and Jack Six. They played together until 1972. Then, Dave began to
play with his sons Darius (keyboards), Dan (drums) and Chris (bass guitar
and bass trombone). They stayed together until 1974. Again, Brubeck retired
to write extended works, including the oratorio The Light in the
From 1977 to 1979, Dave formed a new quartet
with Jack Six, Rand Jones and Bill Smith (clarinet) or Bob Militello
(reeds). In 1987, Brubeck composed and performed music for the papal visit.
He has also played for every American president since John F. Kennedy. From
the 1980s on, Dave received numerous awards, including a
Lifetime Achievement award in 1996 from the National Academy of Recording
Arts and Sciences.
In 1995, in celebration of his 75th birthday,
Brubeck played two concerts in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He
performed an hour-long Mass, To Hope! (A Celebration) and premiered
the choral work This Is the Day.
In his career, Dave Brubeck has collaborated
with Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Jimmy Rushing and many others.
Brubeck's piano style is described by
Feather/Gitler as "heavy in touch and thick with complex harmonies
[which] evolved in later years into a richer more melodic, but no less
provocative, form of expression".
As the concert in Lucerne proved (see the
review below), Brubeck still plays at his best and continues to
compose. According to his manager, an album with new compositions is to be
recorded this fall.
Biographical sources: Grove Online; Leonard
Feather/Ira Gitler: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. -
by Dave Brubeck.
Dave Brubeck Quartet in concert
Lucerne, April 27, 2001
The Dave Brubeck Quartet's concert in Lucerne,
organized by All Blues, was -
together with the performance of Dave Douglas' Tiny
Bell Trio in Winterthur - the highlight of this year's Swiss jazz
season so far.
On April 27, the
blanche in Lucerne was sold out. It was conceived by the acoustics specialist Russell
Johnson and the French architect Jean Nouvel and offers almost perfect
acoustics thanks to its traditional shoe box hall-form. The quartet fully
deserves such an outstanding place to perform. It was their second
appearance at the salle blanche - the first widely-acclaimed visit took place in October 1999.
could hardly believe that Dave Brubeck is over 80 years old. The American
jazz composer, pianist
and bandleader is a phenomenon. His sound is
still cool, melodic and experimental, in short: timeless. He was
accompanied by Robert Militello on saxes, flute and clarinet. Brubeck had
first played with Militello in 1982. In 1997, Militello became a permanent
member of the quartet. Drummer Randy Jones has been a cornerstone of the
group since 1979. The English bassist Alec Dankworth - the son of jazz
musician John Dankworth - is the youngest of the quartet. Born in 1960, he
has played with Brubeck since 1998. For him, it is the last tour with the
The concert began rhythmically with drums
and bass in Broadway Bossa Nova. After five minutes, the piano came
into the foreground. The entertaining sound inflamed the public. There
for June, written by Dave's brother Howard, came next. Brubeck, in an
introspective and charming solo effort filled the hall with warmth. Later,
the rest of the quartet joined in. It was already clear, there was no
weak element among the four men. They offered marvelous, chamber-music
like moments, with the lyrical piano fading away in the end.
The quartet played the title song The Crossing, a new album to be
released in autumn 2001. Brubeck
composed The Crossing on the Queen Mary II while crossing the
Atlantic. It captures the mood on the ship and, above all, the sound of
Queen Mary II leaving New York harbor. The
sound is full of optimism. The saxophone has a leading role, pounding
forward with full strength. The bass is melodic and virtuous. Then, the
piano takes the lead, spreading joy in a frenetic rhythm which, in the
end, is again taken over by the saxophone.
Another composition from the upcoming
album, All My Love, was next. It is dedicated to Brubeck's wife of
59 years. The ballad begins with a piano solo, later joined by the rest of
the quartet in a sweet and tender manner. Why Not? or Porqué
No?, another fresh tune, was next. It is an elegant and at the same
time energetic tune, entertaining at the highest possible level.
Then, the quartet turned back to an
intimate sound and played one of Brubeck's big hits for the first time in the evening, In Your Own Sweet Way. The emotional
overwhelming, with Militello excelling on saxophone with his soft and
The quartet did not
fall into nostalgia but returned to the upcoming album with
a tune entitled Randy Jones. One could easily sing "Randy
Jones, Randy Jones" to this flamboyant spectacle, which of course
included a dramatic solo by the drummer it was dedicated to.
the intermission, the quartet made a dramatic entrance with Militello once
more shining on saxophone in Traveling Blues. Next was Mr Fats,
dedicated to Fats Waller. It's popular sound with boogie woogie elements
was orgiastic. The saxophone made the walls shake and Brubeck on piano
offered some high-pitched notes which sent cold shivers through the
public. Dave had worked with Cleo Brown, one of the
greatest boogie woogie pianists, when he was 19. This was one of many
stories he told that evening.
with a melodramatic bass and drums beginning followed. Brubeck explained
that W.C. Handy had written the first theme like a tango. In other words:
"The first blues started as a tango." This is what Brubeck found
out when he studied the original sheet music and this is the way he played
it in Lucerne. A high point in an evening full of highlights.
pointed out that "The Blues has always been the basis of jazz".
And he went on to introduce Koto Song which demonstrated the
Japanese influence on jazz, with Militello doing some "wild
things" on flute. But first, Brubeck played a tender melody on piano
which installed a "Japanese" feeling. Later, Militello conjured
up some magical and unusual tunes on transverse flute. It all ended in
a contemplative feeling.
inevitable Take Five came at the end of the concert. It was as
forceful as ever and gave drummer Randy Jones a chance to perform another solo. As an encore, The Dave Brubeck Quartet offered Take the A
Train. A memorable evening of some three hours of playing without any
weak moment came to an end - with a fully deserved standing ovation.
Added on December 8, 2001: The Dave Brubeck Quartet: The Crossing, Telarc, 2001. Get it from
Amazon.co.uk. Among the album's nine tracks are The Crossing, Why Not?, All
My Love and Randy Jones which the Dave Brubeck Quartet played
in Lucerne. A pure joy to listen to!
- Sheet music
by Dave Brubeck.
Dave Brubeck. Photograph: All Blues.
CDs by Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck: Double Live - From
The USA & UK. 2 CDs, Telarc, 2001. Get it from Amazon.com,
The Double-CD gives the best possible impression of the level on which
Brubeck and his Quartet still perform today. Although at the concert in
Lucerne in 2001, the program was largely different, the overall musical-impression
comparable. The Double-CD includes Take Five, Broadway Bossa Nova
and Take the A Train.
Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Dave Brubeck. Sony/Columbia, 2000. Get it
The 15 tracks naturally include his best known recordings such as Take Five
(Desmond), The Duke (Brubeck), In Your Own
Sweet Way (Brubeck) and Blue Rondo a la Turk (Brubeck).
Dave Brubeck: The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall. 2 CDs,
Sony/Columbia, 2001. Get it from Amazon.co.uk,
Dave Brubeck: Time Out. Sony/Columbia, 1997 (1959). Get it from Amazon.com. The
re-edition of the original album that includes the first jazz instrumental
to sell over a million copies: Take Five.