David Warren “Dave” Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012) was an American jazz pianist and composer, considered to be one of the foremost exponents of cool jazz. He wrote a number of jazz standards, including “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke”. Brubeck’s style ranged 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 saxophone melody for the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s best remembered piece, “Take Five”, which is in 5/4 time and has endured as a jazz classic on one of the top-selling jazz albums, Time Out. Brubeck experimented with time signatures throughout his career, recording “Pick Up Sticks” in 6/4, “Unsquare Dance” in 7/4, “World’s Fair” in 13/4, and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” in 9/8. He was also a respected composer of orchestral and sacred music, and wrote soundtracks for television such as Mr. Broadway and the animated miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown.
Brubeck died of heart failure on December 5, 2012, in Norwalk, Connecticut, one day before his 92nd birthday. He was on his way to a cardiology appointment, accompanied by his son Darius. A birthday party concert had been planned for him with family and famous guests. It was recast as a memorial tribute. The Los Angeles Times noted that he “was one of Jazz’s first pop stars,” even though he was not always happy with his fame, uncomfortable, for example, that Time had featured him on the cover before it did so for Duke Ellington, saying, “It just bothered me”. The New York Times noted he had continued to play well into his old age, performing in 2011 and in 2010 only a month after getting a pacemaker, with Times music writer Nate Chinen commenting that Brubeck had replaced “the old hammer-and-anvil attack with something almost airy” and that his playing at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City was “the picture of judicious clarity”.
In The Daily Telegraph, music journalist Ivan Hewett wrote: “Brubeck didn’t have the réclame of some jazz musicians who lead tragic lives. He didn’t do drugs or drink. What he had was endless curiosity combined with stubbornness”, adding “His work list is astonishing, including oratorios, musicals and concertos, as well as hundreds of jazz compositions. This quiet man of jazz was truly a marvel.”
In The Guardian, John Fordham said “Brubeck’s real achievement was to blend European compositional ideas, very demanding rhythmic structures, jazz song-forms and improvisation in expressive and accessible ways. His son Chris told the Guardian “when I hear Chorale, it reminds me of the very best Aaron Copland, something like Appalachian Spring. There’s a sort of American honesty to it.” Robert Christgau dubbed Brubeck the “jazz hero of the rock and roll generation”. On the night of Brubeck’s death, right before the intermission of a performance for Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s “Hot House”, a tribute was performed solely by Corea at Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The tune played was “Strange Meadow Lark”, from Brubeck’s perhaps most famous album Time Out.
- December, 06, 1920
- Concord, California
- December, 05, 2012
- Norwalk, Connecticut
- Umpawaug Cemetery
- Redding, Connecticut