R.I.P., Dave Brubeck

I can credit the man who passed away today at 91, Dave Brubeck, with my discovery of jazz.

Born out of a post-adolescent loathing and hatred of all things disco, I discovered an album at my local record store that I still have to this day: “Adventures in Time,” a sort-of greatest hits two-record album with the Dave Brubeck Quartet that absolutely floored me when I listened to it. And listen to it I did, over and over again. Thanks to Maestro Brubeck and the amazing music he wrote, I discovered his amazing saxophonist, Paul Desmond, and subsequently Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Duke Ellington (one of America’s greatest composers, by the way), Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and the rest of the pantheon of jazz gods that I’ve come to love as much as my beloved classical music.

Thanks, Dave, for lighting the fire in me. Godspeed and may you rest in peace.

Dave Brubeck, the jazz pianist, composer and bandleader behind the legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet, has died at age 91.

The death of Brubeck, whose composition “Take Five” became a jazz standard and the bestselling jazz song of all time, was confirmed Wednesday by the Associated Press. Brubeck would have turned 92 Thursday.

According to the AP, Brubeck died of heart failure after being stricken while on the way to a cardiologist’s  appointment in Connecticut.

Brubeck, born Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord, Calif., was the son of a cattle rancher. His mother was a classically trained pianist. Although he studied zoology at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, he came to love the music department. While serving in the Army during World War II, Brubeck formed the band the Wolfpack.  After the war in the Bay Area he experimented with music groups and styles.

In 1951 he and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond created what would become one of the most popular acts of West Coast jazz, the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The quartet’s most famous song was “Take Five,” from the 1959 release “Time Out.

During his career, Brubeck also created standards such as “The Duke” and “In Your Own Sweet Way.”

In a 2010 article on the occasion of Brubeck’s 90th birthday, the Los Angeles Times interviewed the jazz legend and noted that although jazz may not occupy the center of the musical universe, even people who know little, if anything, about jazz know of Brubeck:

“Through more than 60 years of recordings and performances at colleges, concert halls, festivals and nightclubs all over the world, Brubeck put forth a body of work — as pianist, composer and bandleader — that is as accessible as it is ingenious, as stress-free as it is rhythmically emphatic, as open-hearted as it is wide-ranging.” […]

Indeed. Here are his two enduring classics:

Blue Rondo a la Turk

Take Five

4 thoughts on “R.I.P., Dave Brubeck”

    • Believe it or not, I’ve mellowed a lot about disco music in general in my advanced dotage. It’s not quite as bad as I made it out to be in my youth. I just hated the whole plastic shallow disco bullshit that went on and on.

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