December 2012, Week 1


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Thu, 6 Dec 2012 23:32:13 -0500
text/plain (367 lines)
Dave Brubeck 1920 - 2012 - His Music Gave Jazz New Pop

1. Dave Brubeck, Jazz Legend Who Built Career at
Tenderloin's Blackhawk Jazz Club, Dies at 91. (Beyond Chron)

2. His Music Gave Jazz New Pop (Ben Ratliff in the New York


Dave Brubeck, Jazz Legend Who Built Career at Tenderloin's
Blackhawk Jazz Club, Dies at 91.

December 06, 2012
Beyond Chron - San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily


Legendary jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck passed away on
December 5 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He would have turned 92
on Thursday. Brubeck, born in Concord, CA, established his
illustrious music career early on at the Blackhawk Jazz Club
on the corner of Turk and Hyde St. in San Francisco's
Tenderloin neighborhood. You can view rare footage of
Brubeck performing at the Blackhawk with his classic quartet
featuring Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello here.


His Music Gave Jazz New Pop

by Ben Ratliff

December 5, 2012
New York Times


Dave Brubeck, the pianist and composer who helped make jazz
popular again in the 1950s and '60s with recordings like
"Time Out," the first jazz album to sell a million copies,
and "Take Five," the still instantly recognizable hit single
that was that album's centerpiece, died on Wednesday in
Norwalk, Conn. He would have turned 92 on Thursday.

 He died while on his way to a cardiology appointment,
 Russell Gloyd, his producer, conductor and manager for 36
 years, said. Mr. Brubeck lived in Wilton, Conn.

In a long and successful career, Mr. Brubeck brought a
distinctive mixture of experimentation and accessibility
that won over listeners who had been trained to the sonic
dimensions of the three-minute pop single.

Mr. Brubeck experimented with time signatures and
polytonality and explored musical theater and the oratorio,
baroque compositional devices and foreign modes. He did not
always please the critics, who often described his music as
schematic, bombastic and - a word he particularly disliked -
stolid. But his very stubbornness and strangeness - the
blockiness of his playing, the oppositional push-and-pull
between his piano and Paul Desmond's alto saxophone - make
the Brubeck quartet's best work still sound original.

Outside of the group's most famous originals, which had the
charm and durability of pop songs ( "Blue Rondo . la Turk,"
"It's a Raggy Waltz" and "Take Five"), some of its best work
was in its overhauls of standards like "You Go to My Head,"
"All the Things You Are" and "Pennies From Heaven."

David Warren Brubeck was born on Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord,
Calif., near San Francisco. Surrounded by farms, his family
lived a bucolic life: his father, Pete, was a cattle buyer
for a meat company, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a choir
director at the nearby Presbyterian church. When Mr. Brubeck
was 11, the family moved to Ione, Calif., where his father
managed a 45,000-acre cattle ranch and owned his own 1,200

Forbidden to listen to the radio - his mother believed that
if you wanted to hear music you should play it - Mr. Brubeck
and his two brothers all played various instruments and knew
classical ,tudes, spirituals and cowboy songs. He learned
most of this music by ear: because he was born cross-eyed,
sight- reading was nearly impossible for him in his early
years as a musician.

Playing for Local Dances

When Mr. Brubeck was 14, a laundryman who led a dance band
encouraged him to perform in public, at Lions Club
gatherings and Western swing dances; he was paid $8 for
playing from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with a one-hour break. But
until he went to college he was an aspiring rancher, not an
aspiring musician.

At the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, he first studied
to be a veterinarian but switched to music after a year. It
was there that he learned about 20th-century culture and
read about Freud, Marx and serial music; it was also there
that he met Iola Whitlock, a fellow student, who became his
wife in 1942.

He graduated that year and was immediately drafted. For two
years he played with the Army band at Camp Haan, in Southern
California. In 1944 Private Brubeck became a rifleman,
entering basic training - first in Texas, then in Maryland -
and was then sent to Metz, in northeast France, for further
preparation for combat.

When his new commanding officer heard him accompany a Red
Cross traveling show one day, Mr. Brubeck recalled, he told
his aide-de-camp, "I don't want that boy to go to the
front." Thereafter, Mr. Brubeck led a band that was trucked
into combat areas to play for the troops. He was near the
front twice, during the Battle of the Bulge, but he never

Finished with the Army at 25, Mr. Brubeck moved with his
wife into an apartment in Oakland, Calif., and, on a G.I.
Bill scholarship, studied at Mills College there with the
French composer Darius Milhaud. Milhaud asked the jazz
musicians in his class to write fugues for jazz ensembles,
and Mr. Brubeck played the results at a series of
performances at the college. Mr. Brubeck had such admiration
for his teacher that he named his first son, born in 1947,

An Instant Partnership

Mr. Brubeck first met his most important musical colleague,
Mr. Desmond, the alto saxophonist, in an Army band in 1943.
Mr. Desmond was a perfect foil; his lovely, impassive tone
was as ethereal as Mr. Brubeck's style was densely chorded.
In 1947 they met again and found instant musical rapport,
fascinated by the challenge of using counterpoint in jazz.

 Mr. Brubeck's first group, an octet formed in 1946,
 contained several of Milhaud's students, and played pieces
 influenced by his teachings, using canonlike elements. The
 group's earliest recorded work predated a much more famous
 set of similarly temperate jazz recordings, the 1948-50
 Miles Davis Nonet work later packaged as "Birth of the

In the late 1940s and early '50s Mr. Brubeck also led a trio
with Ron Crotty on bass and Cal Tjader on drums. It was
around this time that he started to develop an audience. He
was given an initial boost by the San Francisco disc jockey
Jimmy Lyons, later the founder of the Monterey Jazz
Festival, who plugged the band on KNBC radio and helped
secure it a record deal with Coronet.

In 1951 the trio expanded to a quartet, with Mr. Desmond
returning. (The permanent lineup change was perhaps
inevitable, as Mr. Desmond was desperate to join his old
friend's increasingly popular band, but it may also have had
to do with physical necessity: Mr. Brubeck had suffered a
serious neck injury while swimming in Hawaii, limiting his
dexterity, and he needed another soloist to help carry the

Quickly the constitutionally different men - Mr. Brubeck
open, ambitious and imposing; Mr. Desmond private, high-
living and self-effacing - developed their lines of musical
communication. By the time of an engagement in Boston in the
fall of 1952 they had become one of jazz's greatest

The next part of the equation was a record label, and for
that Mr. Brubeck had found another booster: Fantasy Records,
just started by the brothers Max and Sol Weiss, who owned a
record- pressing plant and had little interest in jazz apart
from wanting to make a profit from it.

They did, eventually, with Mr. Brubeck. But Iola Brubeck
also played a role in the growth of his audience. Before Mr.
Brubeck became a client of the prominent manager Joe Glaser,
she handled her husband's business affairs. In 1953 she
wrote to more than a hundred universities, suggesting that
the quartet would be willing to play for student
associations. The college circuit became the group's bread
and butter, and by the end of the 1950s it had sold hundreds
of thousands of copies of its albums "Jazz at Oberlin" and
"Jazz Goes to College."

In 1954 Mr. Brubeck became only the second jazz musician
(after Louis Armstrong) to be featured on the cover of Time
magazine. That year he signed with Columbia Records,
promising to deliver two albums a year, and built a house in

For all his conceptualizing, Mr. Brubeck often seemed more
guileless and stubborn country boy than intellectual. It is
often noted that his piece "The Duke" - memorably recorded
by Miles Davis and Gil Evans in 1957 on their collaborative
album "Miles Ahead" - runs through all 12 keys in the first
eight bars. But Mr. Brubeck contended that he never realized
that until a music professor told him.

Mr. Brubeck's very personal musical language situated him
far from the Bud Powell school of bebop rhythm and harmony;
he relied more on chords, lots and lots of them, than on
sizzling, hornlike right-hand lines. (He may have come by
this outsiderness naturally, as a function of his
background: jazz by way of rural isolation and modernist
academia. He was, Ted Gioia wrote in his book "West Coast
Jazz," inspired "by the process of improvisation rather than
by its history.")

It took a little while for Mr. Brubeck to capitalize on the
greater visibility his deal with Columbia gave him, and as
he accommodated success a certain segment of the jazz
audience began to turn against him. (The 1957 album "Dave
Digs Disney," on which he played songs from Walt Disney
movies, didn't help his credibility among critics and
connoisseurs.) Still, by the end of the decade he had broken
through with mainstream audiences in a bigger way than
almost any jazz musician since World War II.

In 1958, as part of a State Department program that brought
jazz as an offer of good will during the cold war, his
quartet traveled in the Middle East and India, and Mr.
Brubeck became intrigued by musical languages that didn't
stick to 4/4 time - what he called "march-style jazz," the
meter that had been the music's bedrock. The result was the
album "Time Out," recorded in 1959. With the hits "Take
Five" (composed by Mr. Desmond in 5/4 meter and prominently
featuring the quartet's gifted drummer, Joe Morello) and
"Blue Rondo . la Turk" (composed by Mr. Brubeck in 9/8), the
album propelled Mr. Brubeck onto the pop charts.

Initially, Mr. Brubeck said, the album was released without
high expectations from the record company. But when disc
jockeys in the Midwest started playing "Take Five," the song
became a national phenomenon. After the album had been out
for 18 months, Columbia released "Take Five" as a 45 r.p.m.
single, edited for radio, with "Blue Rondo" on the B side.
Both album and single became hits; the album "Time Out" has
since sold about two million copies.

 Standing Up to Racism

In 1960, realizing that most of the quartet's work centered
on the East Coast, the Brubecks, with their children, Dan,
Michael, Chris, Darius and Catherine, moved to Wilton, where
they stayed. They later had one more child, Matthew.

Genial as Mr. Brubeck could seem, he had strong convictions.
In the 1950s he had to stand up to college deans who asked
him not to perform with a racially mixed band (his bassist,
Gene Wright, was black). He also refused to tour in South
Africa in 1958 when asked to sign a contract stipulating
that his band would be all white. With his wife as lyricist,
he wrote "The Real Ambassadors," a jazz musical that dealt
with race relations. With a cast that included Louis
Armstrong, it was released on LP in 1962 but staged only
once, at that year's Monterey Jazz Festival.

When Mr. Brubeck's quartet broke up in 1967, after 17 years,
he spent more time with his family and followed new paths.
In 1969 he composed "Elementals" (subtitled "Concerto for
Anyone Who Can Afford an Orchestra"), a concerto grosso for
45-piece ensemble. He later wrote an oratorio and four
cantatas, a mass, two ballets and works for jazz combo with
orchestra. Most of his commissioned pieces from the late
'60s on, many of them collaborations with his wife, whose
contributions included lyrics and librettos, were classical

As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious
themes and to bridge social and political divides. His
cantata "The Gates of Justice," from 1969, dealt with blacks
and Jews in America; another cantata, "Truth Is Fallen"
(1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent
State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra,
electric guitars and police sirens. He played during the
Reagan- Gorbachev summit meeting in 1988 and he composed
entrance music for Pope John Paul II's visit to Candlestick
Park in San Francisco in 1987.

Another Quartet

In 1968 he formed a quartet with the baritone saxophonist
Gerry Mulligan, and later he began working with his musician
sons Darius (a pianist), Chris (a bassist), Dan (a drummer)
and Matthew (a cellist). He performed and recorded with them
often, most definitively on "In Their Own Sweet Way"
(Telarc, 1997). The classic Brubeck quartet regrouped only
once, in 1976, for a 25th-anniversary tour.

Mr. Brubeck's son Michael died in 2009. In addition to his
other sons and his daughter, Mr. Brubeck is survived by his
wife; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Brubeck resumed working with a quartet in the late 1970s
- finally settling into a long-term touring group featuring
the saxophonist Bobby Militello- and thereafter never
stopped writing, touring and performing his hits. To the end
he was a major draw at festivals.

In 1999 Mr. Brubeck was named a Jazz Master by the National
Endowment for the Arts. Ten years later he received a
Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American
culture. He gave his archives to his alma mater.

Despite health problems, Mr. Brubeck was still working as
recently as 2011. In November 2010, just a month after
undergoing heart surgery and receiving a pacemaker, he
performed at the Blue Note in Manhattan. Nate Chinen of The
Times, noting that Mr. Brubeck had already "softened his
pianism, replacing the old hammer-and-anvil attack with
something almost airy," wrote that his playing at the Blue
Note "was the picture of judicious clarity, its well-placed
chordal accents suggesting a riffing horn section."

Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to
him. "One of the reasons I believe in jazz," he said, "is
that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your
heart. It's the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat.
It's the first thing you hear when you're born - or before
you're born - and it's the last thing you hear."


Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following

Correction: December 5, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary erroneously attributed a
distinction to Mr. Brubeck.  He was the second jazz musician
to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, not the first.
That version also misstated the name of a song at one point.
It is "Take Five," not "Time Out." ("Time Out" is the name
of the album on which "Take Five" first appeared.) It also
said that "Take Five" was the first jazz single to sell a
million copies, instead it was the album "Time Out" that
sold over a million copies.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 6,
2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:
His Music Gave Jazz New Pop.



Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

Submit via email: [log in to unmask]

Submit via the Web: http://portside.org/submittous3

Frequently asked questions: http://portside.org/faq

Sub/Unsub: http://portside.org/subscribe-and-unsubscribe

Search Portside archives: http://portside.org/archive

Contribute to Portside: https://portside.org/donate