Pianist, composer, bandleader and committed anti-racist Dave Brubeck died yesterday. Today would have been his 92nd birthday.
The New York Times obit, by Ben Ratliff is worth a read, and contains links to a lot of YouTube clips.
Many of the radio and TV tributes have played his big hit ‘Take Five,’ failing to mention – or perhaps simply unaware of – the fact that it wasn’t written by Brubeck but by his altoist at the time, Paul Desmond. Here’s the classic Brubeck Quartet with Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, playing a tune Brubeck did write: ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’:
The title derives from the “Turkish” 9/8 rhythms 2+2+2+3 and 3+3+3 which are played in the first part of the piece. Brubeck liked “unusual” time signatures.
His music was sometimes criticised for (allegedly) being lightweight and commercial, but there can be no doubting his sincerity and devotion to the music, as well as his fundamental human decency. He also introduced a lot of people to jazz; when ‘Take Five’ was released as a single (with ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ on the ‘B’ side) in 1962 it sold a million copies – an unprecedented achievement for a jazz instrumental.
PS: John Fordham states in today’s (6 Dec) Graun that “Brubeck was a conscientious objector in world war two”, though that claim does not appear in the online version of the obituary (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/05/dave-brubeck). Does anyone know whether or not it’s true?