Dave Brubeck Explained

Dave Brubeck
Background:non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth Name:David Warren Brubeck
Birth Date:6 December 1920
Birth Place:Concord, California
Instrument:Piano
Genre:Jazz
Cool jazz
West Coast jazz
Third stream
Occupation:Pianist
Composer
Bandleader
Years Active:1940s–present
Associated Acts:Dave Brubeck Quartet
Associated Artists:Paul Desmond
Gerry Mulligan
Joe Morello
Eugene Wright
Religion:Catholicism

David Warren "Dave" Brubeck (born December 6, 1920) is an American jazz pianist. He has written a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke". Brubeck's style ranges from refined to bombastic, reflecting his mother's attempts at classical training and his improvisational skills. His music is known for employing unusual time signatures, and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities.

His long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, wrote the Dave Brubeck Quartet's best remembered piece, "Take Five", which is in 5/4 time and has endured as a jazz classic on the top-selling jazz album, Time Out.[1] Brubeck experimented with time signatures throughout his career, recording "Pick Up Sticks" in 6/4, "Unsquare Dance" in 7/4, and "Blue Rondo à la Turk" in 9/8. He is also a respected composer of orchestral and sacred music, and wrote soundtracks for television such as Mr. Broadway and the animated mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown.

Early life and career

Brubeck was born in Concord, California[2] and grew up in Ione. He is of English (maternal), Swiss and possibly Native American Modoc Tribe [3] multi-ethnic (paternal) ancestry[4] His father, Howard "Pete" Brubeck, was a cattle rancher, and his mother, Elizabeth (née Ivey), who had studied piano in England under Myra Hess and intended to become a concert pianist, taught piano for extra money.[5] Brubeck originally did not intend to become a musician (his two older brothers, Henry and Howard, were already on that track), but took lessons from his mother. He could not read sheet music during these early lessons, attributing this difficulty to poor eyesight, but "faked" his way through, well enough that this deficiency went mostly unnoticed.[6]

Intending to work with his father on their ranch, Brubeck entered the College of the Pacific (now the University of the Pacific) studying veterinary science, but transferred on the urging of the head of zoology, Dr Arnold, who told him "Brubeck, your mind's not here. It's across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours".[7] Later, Brubeck was nearly expelled when one of his professors discovered that he could not read music. Several of his professors came forward, arguing that his ability with counterpoint and harmony more than compensated. The college was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and agreed to let Brubeck graduate only after he promised never to teach piano.[8]

After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army. He was spared from service in the Battle of the Bulge when he volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show; he was such a hit he was ordered to form a band. Thus he created one of the US armed forces' first racially integrated bands, "The Wolfpack".[8] While serving in the military, Brubeck met Paul Desmond in early 1944.[9] He returned to college after serving nearly four years in the army, this time attending Mills College and studying under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration, but not classical piano. While on active duty, he received two lessons from Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA in an attempt to connect with High Modernism theory and practice.[10] However, the encounter did not end on good terms since Schoenberg believed that every note should be accounted for, an approach which Brubeck could not accept.

After completing his studies under Milhaud, Brubeck helped to establish Berkeley, California's Fantasy Records. He worked with an octet (the recording bears his name only because Brubeck was the best-known member at the time), and a trio including Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty. Highly experimental, the group made few recordings and got even fewer paying jobs. The trio was often joined by Paul Desmond on the bandstand, at Desmond's prodding.[11]

Quartet era

Following a near-fatal swimming accident which incapacitated him for several months, Brubeck organized The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, with Desmond on saxophone. They took up a long residency at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses, recording a series of albums with such titles as Jazz at Oberlin (1953), Jazz at College of the Pacific (1953), and Brubeck's debut on Columbia Records, Jazz Goes to College (1954). In that same year, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine, the second jazz musician to be so honored (the first was Louis Armstrong on February 21, 1949[12]). Brubeck personally found this accolade embarrassing since he considered Duke Ellington more deserving of it and was convinced that himself being Caucasian as opposed to Ellington being African American was a factor for why he was favored.[13]

Early bassists for the group included Ron Crotty, Bob Bates, and Bob's brother Norman Bates; Lloyd Davis and Joe Dodge held the drum chair. In 1956, Brubeck hired Joe Morello, who had been working with Marian McPartland; Morello's presence made possible the rhythmic experiments that were to come. In 1958 Eugene Wright joined for the group's US State Department tour of Europe and Asia; Wright would become a permanent member in 1959, making the "classic" Quartet's personnel complete.

Wright is African-American; in the late 1950s and early 1960s Brubeck canceled several concerts because the club owners or hall managers resisted the idea of an integrated band on their stages. He also canceled a television appearance when he found out that the producers intended to keep Wright off-camera.

In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded Time Out, an album their label was enthusiastic about but nonetheless hesitant to release. Featuring the album art of S. Neil Fujita, the album contained all original compositions, almost none of which were in common time: 9/8, 5/4, 3/4, and 6/4 were used inspired by Eurasian folk music they experienced during that US State Department sponsored tour.[14] Nonetheless, on the strength of these unusual time signatures (the album included "Take Five", "Blue Rondo à la Turk", and "Three To Get Ready"), it quickly went platinum.

Time Out was followed by several albums with a similar approach, including Time Further Out: Miro Reflections (1961), using more 5/4, 6/4, and 9/8, plus the first attempt at 7/4; Countdown: Time in Outer Space (dedicated to John Glenn) (1962), featuring 11/4 and more 7/4; and Time Changes (1963), with much 3/4, 10/4 (which was really 5+5), and 13/4. These albums were also known for using contemporary paintings as cover art, featuring the work of Joan Miró on Time Further Out, Franz Kline on Time in Outer Space, and Sam Francis on Time Changes.

A high point for the group was their 1963 live album At Carnegie Hall, described by critic Richard Palmer as "arguably Dave Brubeck's greatest concert".

In the early '60s, Brubeck and his wife Iola developed a jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, based in part on experiences they and their colleagues had during foreign tours on behalf of the US State Department. The soundtrack album, which featured Louis Armstrong, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Carmen McRae was recorded in 1961; the musical itself was performed at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.

At their peak in the early '60s, the Brubeck Quartet was releasing as many as four albums a year. Apart from the 'College' and the 'Time' series, Brubeck recorded four LPs featuring his compositions based on the group's travels, and the local music they encountered. Jazz Impressions of the USA (1956, Morello's debut with the group), Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958), Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964), and Jazz Impressions of New York (1964) are less well-known albums, but all are brilliant examples of the quartet's studio work, and they produced Brubeck standards such as "Summer Song," "Brandenburg Gate," "Koto Song," and "Theme From Mr. Broadway." (Brubeck wrote, and the Quartet performed, the theme song for the Craig Stevens CBS drama series; the music from the series became material for the "New York" album.)

In 1961 Dave Brubeck appeared in a few scenes of the British Jazz/Beat film All Night Long, which starred Patrick McGoohan and Richard Attenborough. Brubeck merely plays himself, and his piano playing includes closeups of his fingerings. Brubeck performs "It's a Raggy Waltz" from the Time Further Out album and duets briefly with bassist Charles Mingus in "Non-Sectarian Blues".

In the early 1960s Dave Brubeck was the program director of WJZZ-FM radio (now WEZN). He achieved his vision of an all jazz format radio station along with his friend and neighbor John E. Metts, one of the first African Americans in senior radio management.

The final studio album for Columbia by the Desmond/Wright/Morello quartet was Anything Goes (1966) featuring Cole Porter songs. A few concert recordings followed, and The Last Time We Saw Paris (1967) was the "Classic" Quartet's swansong.

Later career

Brubeck's disbanding of the Quartet at the end of 1967 allowed him more time to compose the longer, extended orchestral and choral works that were occupying his attention (to say nothing of Brubeck's desire to spend more time with his family). February 1968 saw the premiere of The Light in the Wilderness for baritone solo, choir, organ, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel, and Brubeck improvising on certain themes within. The piece is an oratorio on Jesus's teachings. The next year, Brubeck produced The Gates of Justice, a cantata mixing Biblical scripture with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Personal life

Four of Brubeck's six children are professional musicians. Darius, the eldest, is an accomplished pianist, producer, educator and performer. (He was named after Dave Brubeck's mentor Darius Milhaud.) Dan is a renowned percussionist, Chris is a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Matthew, the youngest, is a versatile cellist with an impressive list of composing and performance credits. Brubeck's children often join with him in concerts and in the recording studio.

Brubeck believed what he saw during World War II contradicted the Ten Commandments, and the war evoked a spiritual awakening. He became a Catholic in 1980, shortly after completing the Mass To Hope which had been commissioned by Ed Murray, editor of the national Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor. Although he had spiritual interests before that time, he said, "I didn't convert to Catholicism, because I wasn't anything to convert from. I just joined the Catholic Church."[15] In 1996, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, Brubeck was awarded the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious[16] honor given to American Catholics, during the University's commencement. He performed "Travellin' Blues" for the graduating class of 2006.

Brubeck founded the Brubeck Institute with his wife Iola at their alma mater, the University of the Pacific in 2000. What began as a special archive, consisting of the personal document collection of the Brubecks has since expanded to provide fellowships and educational opportunities in jazz for students, also leading to having one of the main streets the school resides on named in his honor, Dave Brubeck Way.[17]

On April 8, 2008, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented Brubeck with a "Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy" for offering an American "vision of hope, opportunity and freedom" through his music. "As a little girl I grew up on the sounds of Dave Brubeck because my dad was your biggest fan," said Rice.[18] The State Department said in a statement that "as a pianist, composer, cultural emissary and educator, Dave Brubeck's life's work exemplifies the best of America's cultural diplomacy." At the ceremony Brubeck played a brief recital for the audience at the State Department. "I want to thank all of you because this honor is something that I never expected. Now I am going to play a cold piano with cold hands," Brubeck stated.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Brubeck would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony occurred December 10, and he was inducted alongside eleven other legendary Californians.[19]

In September 2009, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Brubeck as a Kennedy Center Honoree for exhibiting excellence in performance arts.[20] The Kennedy Center Honors Gala took place on Sunday, December 6 (Brubeck's 89th birthday) and was broadcast nationwide on CBS on December 29 at 9:00 pm EST.

On September 20, 2009, at Monterey Jazz Festival, Brubeck was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree (D.Mus. honoris causa) from Berklee College of Music.[21]

On May 16, 2010, Brubeck was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree (honoris causa) from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. The ceremony took place on the National Mall.

On July 5, 2010, Brubeck was awarded the Miles-Davis Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.In 2010, Bruce Ricker and Clint Eastwood produced a documentary about Brubeck for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) to commemorate his 90th birthday in December 2010.[22]

Brubeck has become a supporter of the Jazz Foundation of America in their mission to save the homes and the lives of elderly jazz and blues musicians, including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina.[23] Brubeck supported the Jazz Foundation by performing in their annual benefit concert "A Great Night in Harlem" in 2006.[24]

Discography

Awards

References

Bibliography

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://www.jazz.com/gallery/sony-collectibles
  2. http://web.archive.org/web/20070928000204/http://www.ci.concord.ca.us/about/citynews/releases/2006/05-04-06-brubeck.htm Reception honors Concord native son, jazz great Dave Brubeck
  3. see: paragraph one, of the second page of the Dave Brubeck interview by Martin Totusek in Cadence Magazine - The Review of Jazz & Blues, December 1994, Vol. 20 No. 12, pages 5 – 17
  4. http://www.smithsonianjazz.org/oral_histories/pdf/Brubeck.pdf Smithsonianjazz.org
  5. Book: Storb, Ilse. Jazz meets the world – the world meets Jazz, Volume 4 of Populäre Musik und Jazz in der Forschung. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. 2000. 129. 3825837483.
  6. http://www.wnyc.org/music/articles/32460 An Hour With Dave Brubeck
  7. It's About Time: The Dave Brubeck Story, by Fred M. Hall.
  8. http://www.pbs.org/brubeck/theMan/cowboyToJazzman.htm Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
  9. Liner notes to the album "25th Anniversary Reunion", by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
  10. Starr, Kevin. 2009. Golden dreams: California in an age of abundance, 1950–1963. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. http://www.downbeat.com/artists/window.asp?action=new&aid=143&aname=Dave+Brubeck Down Beat artists profile
  12. http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19490221,00.html Time magazine cover: Louis Armstrong
  13. Book: Kaplan, Fred. 1959: The Year that Changed Everything. 2009. John Wiley & Songs. 131.
  14. Book: Kaplan. 1959. 2009. 131–132.
  15. http://www.pbs.org/brubeck/theMusic/brubeckRediscovers.htm Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
  16. News: Jazz legend Dave Brubeck to receive Laetare Medal. University of Notre Dame Office of News & Information. March 25, 2006. December 13, 2009.
  17. http://web.pacific.edu/x19743.xml Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony – University of the Pacific
  18. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=17963 "Whatever Happened to Cultural Diplomacy?"
  19. News: Artists Dominate the 2008 "California Hall of Fame". California Arts Council. May 28, 2008. December 13, 2009.
  20. News: Kennedy Center Honorees for 2009 Are: Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro, Grace Bumbry, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Brubeck. The Washington Post. September 9, 2009. July 26, 2011.
  21. News: Berklee College of Music. http://www.berklee.edu/news/853/dave-brubeck-to-receive-honorary-doctorate. August 19, 2009. July 26, 2011.
  22. Web site: In Dave Brubeck’s Own Sweet Way. Jazz Times. January 13, 2011.
  23. Allaboutjazz.com. February 11, 2009. Allaboutjazz.com
  24. blogspot.com. February 11, 2009. Blogspot.com.
  25. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5h9S-4CZPAlkLrj9sBxFoDZ5YJl-w "Jazz great Brubeck wins US public diplomacy award"
  26. http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/honors/index.cfm Kennedy-center.org
  27. http://www.gwu.edu/explore/mediaroom/newsreleases/legendarypianistandcomposerdavebrubecktoreceivehonorarydegreefromthegeorgewashingtonuniversity GWU.edu