Dave Brubeck is one of the most enthusiastic and legendary Jazz Players. In spite of belonging to a family with a musical background and getting tuitions in piano at a very young age, Brubeck never found much interest in music till after a very long time. His skills at creating music without ground rules and playing with two keys together earned him popularity and much acclaim.
Brubeck had not found his passion for music till he was in college where he switched his majors to music. He served in the army for 4 years as the band leader and returned to continue his education under Darius Milhaud.
Brubeck’s professional career began in 1947 with the Geary Cellar Band in San Francisco. He left it after 2 years to join the Paul Desmond Trio and later led his own Dave Brubeck Trio. The trio reformed into a quartet with Desmond at the saxophone in 1951. From thereon, Brubeck struggled to make name in the music industry but rarely as labels were reluctant in releasing his albums with their complex time signature and poly-tonality. In spite of this, the Jazz lovers admired this venture in to another prospect of Jazz.
The album Jazz goes to college brought the quartet in the national spotlight and earned Brubeck the front page of the Times magazine. Moreover, in 1959, their album Time out went platinum. The album with the same unusual timings and notes, if on one hand suffered criticism from Jazz players, on the other hand took the crowd by storm with the singles Blue Rondo A la Turk and Take Five. The band toured the world excessively till it split up in 1967.
Brubeck has worked with Gerry Mulligan and Jerry Bergonzi. He continues to compose producing new work including orchestrations and ballet scores. His apt to fuse classical music with Jazz and daring to experiment still continues inspiring many of his listeners.
Born on 6th December, 1920 in Concord, California, to a classical music artist of a mother, Brubeck is the most famous Jazz pianist of his time. He was provided with the training of the piano from a very young age but chose to be a rancher instead. He had two elder brothers as musicians and hoped to follow a different path from his family. But his love for Jazz music stirred up while he was studying in college by the dynamic Harold Meeske. He joined the army in 1942 and served for four years on the field as their band leader. After returning back, he studied music under the tutelage of Darius Millhaud from where he learned polytonality and polyrhythm.
Brubeck professionally began his career in 1947 with the Geary Cellar Jazz Band in a San Francisco club. Although it was not much of a hit, but there he met Paul Desmond, one of the leading influences on his work. He joined the Paul Desmond Trio in 1949 and formed his own trio in the same year until he suffered from a serious neck injury. In 1951 he reformed his band in the form of a quartet with Paul Desmond at the saxophone, Joe Dodge on drums and Bob Bates on brass. This quartet released many albums that took the music industry by storm such as Jazz at Oberlin (1953), Jazz Goes to College (1954) and Time out (1959).
These continuous hits went down well with the Jazz listeners but not with the Jazz critics and they continued to question Brubeck’s time signatures and two toned music. Brubeck still continued on his unique and creative expression through Jazz, landing on the cover of the Times magazine. The article describes Brubeck’s as ‘the most exciting new jazz artist at work today’ and the Quartet’s music as ‘some of the strangest and loveliest music ever played since jazz was born.’ The quartet was famously known as The Classic Quartet.
Brubeck with his wife Iola Brubeck worked on an anti-racism show featuring Louis Armstrong shown in Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962. The classic Dave Brubeck Quarter toured the world and held many concerts alongside introducing Take Five; the most popular Jazz single ever.
The Classic Quartet dissolved in 1967 after which Brubeck worked with his sons with Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond as guest artists. With time, Brubeck introduced a spiritual touch to his music including ballets, symphonies, orchestral music, contemporary mass, so on and so forth.
Brubeck has earned numerous awards and honors in his lifetime, the most notable of which is performing four times in the White House. He performed for four different Presidents namely Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan and Clinton. He has won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among many more.
Brubeck recorded for many labels producing unforgettable singles such as In Your Own Sweet Way, the Duke and Blue Rondo a la Turk. He is known as a classic figure to attract many listeners to Jazz music. Brubeck’s unique Jazz style still serves as a testimony to the greatest Jazz player of all times.
Dave Brubeck mastered in the art of an unfamiliar approach to Jazz music. Influenced by his mother’s inclination towards classical music, Brubeck infiltrated Jazz with classical music resulting in compositions that while on one hand pleased the listeners, on the other hand were criticised by Jazz artists. Brubeck experimented with Jazz music like never done before and introduced creativity into it making his name widely known in the Jazz world.
Brubeck improvised the Jazz composition unearthing newer time signatures that served as a source of questioning from many Jazz critics. He also introduced poly-rhythms and poly-tonality as a result of his influence from Darius Milhaud. This made his music even more unique and popular among the masses.
His improvised counterpoint is one of the main characteristic of his innovations apart from the use of multiple tones and working on two keys. Brubeck’s inclination towards use of unique time signatures stems from his passion to unearth music of other countries. He was impressed by time signatures of African, Turkish and Indian heritage and fused them together in Jazz.
Stanley H. White wrote in Jazz Journal in 1958 that Brubeck’s ‘ability to improvise fluently on almost any given theme and his ability to swing with both drive and imagination make him a jazz musician of singular merit.’
His immense appeal generates from his use of unconventional metres. He is always searching for new means of creative expression through music. His music goes more through the heart and the mind then the feet.
Brubeck entered the world of ballets, operas and orchestra by suffusing his compositions with jazz influences. Brubeck has won a number of awards for his unique style. He was a prolific and original composer, whose best-known tunes include The Duke, In your own Sweet way and Blue Rondo a la Turk.
Videos and Recordings
Dave Brubeck plays Take Five:
Rondo A La Turk: