Dave Brubeck

David Warren Brubeck (born December 6, 1920 in Concord, California[1]), better known as Dave Brubeck, is a U.S. jazz pianist. Regarded as a genius in his field, 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. Much of his music employs unusual time signatures.

His long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, wrote the Dave Brubeck Quartet's most famous piece, "Take Five", which is in 5/4 time and has endured as a jazz classic. Brubeck experimented with time signatures through much of his career, recording "Pick Up Sticks" in 6/4, "Unsquare Dance" in 7/8, and "Blue Rondo à la Turk" in 9/8. He also provided music for TV animated miniseries "This Is America, Charlie Brown".

Brubeck's mother studied piano in England and intended to become a concert pianist; at home she taught piano for extra money. Brubeck was not particularly interested in learning by any particular method, but preferred to create his own melodies and therefore avoided learning to read sheet music.

In college, Brubeck was nearly expelled when one of his professors discovered that he could not read sheet music. Several of his professors came forward arguing for his ability with counterpoint and harmony, but the school was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and only agreed to let Brubeck graduate once he promised never to teach piano.[2]

After graduating from the University of the Pacific in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge. While serving as a rifleman, Brubeck met Paul Desmond in early 1944.[3]He played in a band, quickly integrating it and gaining both popularity and deference. He returned to college after serving nearly 4 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 (Oddly enough, most critics consider Brubeck something of a classical pianist playing jazz).


Early career

After completing his studies under Milhaud, Brubeck signed with Berkeley, California's Fantasy Records. He started an octet and also a trio which included Cal Tjader and Ron Grotty. Later the trio became a quartet with Paul Desmond. Highly experimental, the group made few recordings and got even fewer paying jobs. A bit discouraged, Brubeck started a trio with two of the members, not including Desmond, who had a band of his own, and spent several years playing nothing but jazz standards.[4]

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, Jazz Goes to College and Jazz Goes to Junior College. In 1954 he was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, the second jazz musician to be so honored (the first was Louis Armstrong on February 21st, 1949[1]).

1950 to 1970s

In the mid-1950s, original Quartet members Bates and Dodge were respectively replaced by Eugene Wright and Joe Morello. Eugene Wright is African-American; in the late 1950s Brubeck cancelled many concerts because the club owners wanted him to bring a different bassist. He also cancelled a television appearance when he found out that the venue intended to keep Wright off-camera.

In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet released Time Out, an album their label was enthusiastic about but nonetheless hesitant to release. The album contained all original compositions, almost none of which were in common time. Nonetheless, on the strength of these unusual time signatures (the album included "Take Five", "Blue Rondo à la Turk", and "Pick Up Sticks"), it quickly went platinum.

During this time, Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola were developing a jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, which was based in part on experiences they and their colleagues had during foreign tours on behalf of the U.S. State Department. The soundtrack album, which featured Louis Armstrong, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Carmen McRae was recorded in 1961, and the musical itself was performed at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.
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Dave Brubeck Quartet 1967. From left to right: Joe Morello, Eugene Wright, Brubeck and Paul Desmond.
The quartet followed up the success of Time Out with several more albums in the same vein, including Time Further Out (1961), Time in Outer Space, and Time Changes. These albums were also known for using contemporary paintings as cover art, featuring the work of Neil Fujita on Time Out, 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 classic 1963 live album At Carnegie Hall, described by critic Richard Palmer as "arguably Dave Brubeck's greatest concert".

Apart from the Jazz Goes to College and the 'Time' series, Brubeck recorded several records featuring his compositions based on local music. Jazz Impressions of USA, Jazz Impressions of Japan, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia and Jazz Impressions of New York may not be his most famous works, but all are brilliant examples of the quartet's studio work.

In the early 1960s Dave Brubeck was the program director of WJZZ-FM radio. 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. From 1956 - 1965 Mr. Metts was the Vice President of an existing news station in Bridgeport, CT, call letters:WICC "Wicc600". In 1964 WJZZ switched to broadcasting the "Top 100" - most likely due to the British Invasion of Rock and Roll.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet broke up in 1967 except for a 25th anniversary reunion in 1976; Brubeck continued playing with Desmond and then began recording with Gerry Mulligan. Desmond died in 1977 and left all residuals including the immense royalties for "Take Five", to the American Red Cross.[5] Mulligan and Brubeck recorded together for six years and then Brubeck formed another group with Perry Robinson on clarinet (or Jerry Bergonzi on saxophone), and three of his sons, Dan, Darius, and Chris, on drums, bass, and keyboards.


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Dave Brubeck (1990)
Today, Brubeck continues to write new works, including orchestrations and ballet scores, and tours about 80 cities each year, up to recently about 20 of them in Europe in autumn. From his 85th birthday his European appearances will be limited. His area of focus is the US, where he still premieres new works, like the Cannery Row Suite, and a project with a big band. His quartet now includes alto saxophonist and flautist Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore (who replaced Alec Dankworth), and his long-time drummer Randy Jones and has recently worked extensively with the London Symphony Orchestra.

At the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 2006, Brubeck debuted his commissioned work, Cannery Row Suite, a jazz opera drawn from the characters in John Steinbeck's American classic writing about Monterey's roots as a sardine fishing and packing town. Iola, Dave Brubeck's wife since 1942, is his personal secretary, manager and lyricist. She co-authored the Cannery Row Suite with Dave. His performance of this as well as a number of jazz standards with his current quartet was the buzz of the 49th Monterey Jazz Festival. Dave Brubeck's family has always been as important to him as his music has been.

Personal life

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Dave Brubeck in 2005
Brubeck's pride goes beyond the music itself. Four of his six children are professional musicians. Darius, the eldest, is an accomplished pianist, producer, educator and performer. Dan is a renowned percussist, Chris is a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Matthew, the youngest, is a versatile cellist with an impressive list of composing and performance credits. Dave Brubeck's children often join with him in concerts and in the recording studio.

World War II imposed on Dave Brubeck a spiritual awakening, the casualties of which he believed to be in contradiction to the Ten Commandments. The experience of the war forced a shift in Brubeck's vision of music in a religious route. Brubeck converted to Catholicism 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 then he indicates "I didn't convert to Catholicism, because I wasn't anything to convert from. I just joined the Catholic Church."[6] 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 honor given to American Catholics, during the University's Commencement. He performed "Travellin' Blues" for the graduating class of 2006.



Grammys.com, Allaccess.com, davebrubeck.com

1. ^ Reception honors Concord native son, jazz great Dave Brubeck, ci.concord.ca.us, retrieved on 2007-01-15
2. ^ PBS - Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
3. ^ Liner notes to the album "25th Anniversary Reunion", by "The Dave Brubeck Quartet".
4. ^ Down Beat Artists Profile
5. ^ Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond
6. ^ PBS - Rediscovering Dave Brubeck
In addition to his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his 1996 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and other honors, Brubeck was the recipient of the BBC Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award presented on July 13, 2007.


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A jazz standard is a jazz tune that is held in continuing esteem and which is widely known, performed, and recorded among jazz musicians as part of the jazz musical repertoire.
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The time signature (also known as "meter signature") is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and what note value constitutes one beat.
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Paul Desmond (25 November 1924 - 30 May 1977), born Paul Emil Breitenfeld, was a jazz alto saxophonist and composer born in San Francisco, best known for the work he did in the Dave Brubeck Quartet and for penning that group's greatest hit, "Take Five".
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The Dave Brubeck Quartet was a jazz quartet, founded in 1951 by Dave Brubeck; featuring Paul Desmond on saxophone, and Brubeck on piano[1]. They took up a long residency at San Francisco's Blackhawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses,
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Released 1961
Recorded July 5, 1959
Genre Jazz
Length 5:28
Label Columbia/Legacy
Writer(s) Paul Desmond
Producer(s) Teo Macero
Peak chart positions
5 (Adult Contemporary), 25 (Pop Singles)

"Take Five
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Unsquare Dance is an iconic piece written by the American jazz composer Dave Brubeck in 1961.

Written in 7/8 the piece is a great example of Brubeck's exploration of time signatures.
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Darius Milhaud (IPA: [darjys mijo]) (September 4, 1892 – June 22, 1974) was a French composer and teacher.
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