My Memories of Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

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Fans around the world are saddened by the death of Dave Brubeck, who passed away last week at the ripe old age of 91.  Most of his peers sure didn’t last this long.  Charlie Parker was born in 1920, same year as Brubeck, and died in 1955. (Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, and so many others were also born in the 1920s, just a few years later.

Brubeck’s signature album Time Out was kind of a gateway to jazz, in the same way as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was.  Both albums were came out the same year, in 1959, and were big sellers for Columbia Records.   Brubeck’s hit tune “Take Five” was written by Paul Desmond, Brubeck’s alto saxophonist, whose smooth sound was once compared to a dry martini.  And it was Desmond, who died in 1977, who contributed so much to give the group its lyricism.

I first heard “Take Five” in a Bruce Brown surfing film.  It was a perfect soundtrack to Lance Carson riding Rincon, to Mikey Dora riding Malibu’s perfect rights.  I bought Time Out, followed by Jazz Impressions of Japan.  I always liked the other, less-known cuts on Take Five, such as “Pick Up Sticks”.

On last Sunday’s show I featured a favorite of mine from an earlier album, Jazz Goes to College, recorded in Oberlin, Ohio, mostly likely at the famous classical music school there.  It’s a  12′ cut called “Balcony Rock”.   Desmond’s lyrical, loping solo dances over Brubeck’s chords, which were always imbued with the classical training the pianist got from his studies with French composer Darius Milhaud.  You might want to check it out sometime.