Dave Brubeck: Changing Times

Dave Brubeck

Take 5 is one of my favorite songs. The catchy melody remains popular with multitudes of Dave Brubeck fans. Here is an earlier post I did on the chord breakdown for Take 5.

I recently looked at an interview with Dave Brubeck and his wife as part of the NAMM Oral History  Program by Eliahu Sussman and Christian Wissmuller. Here are a few snippets.

  • Dave Brubeck: Changing Times
With the insatiable musical curiosity and ingenuity, Dave Brubeck helped legitimize jazz as an art form in the 1940s and '50s. Brubeck is also widely credited with bringing jazz into the public eye, popularizing the genre without sacrificing his own musical integrity or his music's dazzling complexity. Time Out, released by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1959, was a landmark recording and remains one of the top selling jazz albums of all time. From the very beginning, it was evident that Brubeck had a special gift.

  • Dave Brubeck: Childhood
His first music lessons came at a very early age from his mother Bessie, who was a pianist. "She could see that I wasn't a typical student," says Brubeck, "so she started teaching me more from the harmonic side of things. I always tried to write things - of course, I couldn't write when I was 4 or 5 years old, but she'd write them for me. I was always interested in making my own music, so I never became a classical pianist."

Art Tatum

  • When Jazz was "Evil"
Apart from his musical family, some of Brubeck's most important influences were his professors who taught counterpoint... But you couldn't even practice jazz in the practice rooms. That's how strict it was. It was that way in every school, just frowned upon. 

"The crossover that we've seen at the University of the Pacific - at first, it was like, "What are these jazz kids doing on campus? But it's at the point now where one might say, "Who's your best piano piano student?" and the answer is, "Well, the one who is in the jazz band."

Brubeck recounts how jazz faced an uphill battle for acceptance. "My wife remembers a copy of The Etude magazine where it said something about the evils of jazz." On cue, Iola Brubeck, Dave's wife for over 60 years, adds, "Etude was a magazine for music teachers, and this was in the twenties. It had quotes from various very well known teachers to keep jazz out of the classroom."

(PianoDiana) I wanted to add that in 1937, Dave's mother heard Art Tatum play Humoresque on the radio and was so impressed that somebody could play that and then improvise on it.

  • Dave Brubeck: Mentors
Darius Milhaud was really the greatest influence on me in classical music and composition... One of the ways in which Milhaud influenced Mr. Brubeck was by encouraging originality. "He liked what I did harmonically. He could see that there was a tendency to go towards polytonality...

Joe Gilman is one teacher that I admire so much. He teaches theory and arranging, but he's a great pianist. He teaches them and coaches the combos...

Paul Desmond

Final Thoughts

Brubeck speaks of the amazing synergy he had with saxophonist Paul Desmond... The ease at which they were able to play together, says Brubeck, came from having an appreciation of the same kinds of music. "We both liked Bach and Stravinsky and Ravel, and show tunes. We had the same taste in what we liked in music. When we improvised, we would both draw on the same kinds of music to incorporate that approach, especially Bach.

Finding the musical connection that Desmond and Brubeck had, that "click," is unpredictable at best. "You find 'it' if you are lucky or simpatico - in five minutes you might find 'it' with one musician, and you might work five years with another guy and never find 'it'."

(PianoDiana) I just wanted to say that whether you play on the worship team at your church or do local gigs in the community, practice listening to recordings over and over to improve your own personal playing and then indeed, you're very fortunate if you have the chemistry with one another. It's hard to put in words the magic of riding the sound waves together while performing. You just 'click'!
I hope some bits and pieces from the interview has helped you to get to know Dave Brubeck better. He is surely missed but his music legacy lives on... true greatness.

Take a look at the music program Hear and Play offers, Jazz Intensive Training Center

Plus, you don't want to miss these great sounding cds!

Gone With the Wind
Indian Summer
A Dave Brubeck Christmas
50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live At the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007

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A special thanks to all who serve in the military to keep our country safe on Veteran's Day.

All the best,

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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