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Pioneering jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck died on December 5 in Norwalk, Connecticut, just one day short of his 92th birthday. He will be remembered for popularising jazz in the 1950s and ’60s with recordings like “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell a million copies.  The album’s centre piece “Take Five” is still instantly recognizable, more than fifty years after its release.

In a career that has spanned more than six decades, Dave Brubeck experiments with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and distinctive harmonies remain hallmarks of a unique musical style unfazed by fad and fashion.

Born in 1920 into a musical family his two older brothers were professional musicians at the age of four he began piano lessons from his mother, a classical pianist. When his family moved to a 45,000 acre cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras, his life changed dramatically. He stopped music lessons and began to work with his father as a cowboy. On weekends he played the piano with a local dance band. He entered the College of the Pacific, Stockton, California, as a pre-med student with the idea of becoming a veterinarian and returning to ranch life. Working his way through school as a pianist in local clubs, he became increasingly involved in jazz, and decided to switch his major to music. After graduating with a bachelor of music degree in 1942, he married Iola Whitlock, who was a fellow student at Pacific, and enlisted in the Army. While serving in Europe under General Patton, he led an integrated GI jazz band. After his discharge in 1946, he began his studies at Mills College with the French composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to introduce jazz elements into his classical compositions. This experimentation of mixed genres led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet that included Paul Desmond, Cal Tjader and Bill Smith. In 1949 Brubeck formed an award-winning trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, and in 1951 established the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. This historic collaboration lasted seventeen years, and even after the dissolution of the "classic" Quartet, Brubeck and Desmond frequently performed together. read more

Albums Featuring David Brubeck

Naxos 2.119005 [DVD]
Dave Brubeck, piano
Paul Desmond, tenor saxophone • Eugene Wright, bass
Joe Morello, drums

‘The best footage of the Classic Quartet that I’ve ever seen.’ – David Brubeck

JAZZ ICONS: DAVID BRUBECK boasts two beautifully filmed concerts from one of the most beloved quartets in jazz history. Captured at the pinnacle of their power and popularity, Paul Desmond (alto sax), Joe Morello (drums), Eugene Wright (bass) and David Brubeck (piano) explore the trails they blazed into the realm of odd time signatures with “Forty Days” and two versions of their groundbreaking hit “Take Five”, as well as forays into world music with two unique interpretations of “Koto Song”. Their intimate onstage chemistry and impeccable musicianship made the DBQ an award-winning jazz supergroup.

Naxos 8.559220
John De Haan, tenor • Jane Giering-De Haan, soprano
Dave Brubeck and Cliff Jackson, piano

Although many of us are familiar with Dave Brubeck the jazz legend, the father and icon of West Coast ‘cool jazz’, and founder of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, few of us are aware of his more traditional compositions. Brubeck is one of the few composers to confidently bridge the gap between jazz and concert music (as his teacher Milhaud did before him). In this varied collection of his songs we are treated to a vast array of styles – from the jazz classic  Strange Meadowlark, to the twelve-tone inspired settings of Hold Fast to Dreams, to the pop sound of Once When I Was Very Young. This recording also captures Dave Brubeck at the height of his creative powers as an improvisational pianist merging seemingly disparate and dissimilar musical styles to create a sound totally his own.

Naxos 8.559212
Chromatic Fantasy Sonata / Rising Sun /
The Salmon Strikes

John Salmon, piano

A legendary jazz artist noted for his daring improvisations, Dave Brubeck is also a composer of many works for performance by classical musicians. He studied composition with the French composer, Darius Milhaud, who encouraged Brubeck to compose using the language of jazz as well as classical music. Brubeck himself notes that perhaps his best compositions were created ‘at the moment for the moment’. Both Chromatic Fantasy Sonata and Two-Part Adventures take their inspiration from the music of J. S. Bach. Rising Sun is taken from the 1965 album Jazz Impressions of Japan while The Salmon Strikes is a tribute to pianist John Salmon, with whom Brubeck has enjoyed a long association and who performs on this recording. In 2003 Dave Brubeck was elected into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

Naxos 8.559301
John Salmon, piano

Dave Brubeck’s Nocturnes are small, lyrical pieces that can be played by children and savoured by adults. Longing, tenderness, and nostalgia are the predominant themes, linking them to Chopin’s nocturnes. Both composers explore the mystery and melancholy that take over after dark, the nocturne’s time to flower. As Brubeck himself writes in his liner notes, “...all of these pieces rise out of my personal life, and it is gratifying to hear them so splendidly recreated by the artistry of John Salmon”.

Naxos 8.559414
The Gates of Justice
Dave Brubeck Trio • Kevin Deas • Cantor Alberto Mizrahi
Baltimore Choral Arts Society • Russell Gloyd

"Dave Brubeck is a product not only of Judeo-Christian thinking but of the humanistic tradition of the Enlightenment. His identification with Jews, blacks, and with all who have known the lash of oppression is anything but accidental. The Hebrew Bible and most particularly the prophetic writings with their passion for social justice represent for him the essence of religious thought. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Dave Brubeck is convinced that ‘we must learn to live together as brothers, or die together as fools.’ The Gates of Justiceis a cantata based on Jewish texts, but its message is universal."- Rabbi Charles D. Mintz

Dorian Sono Luminus DSL-92160
Pacific Mozart Ensemble • Lynne Morrow

This disc is a magnificent collection of works from the hands of David Brubeck, brought to life in this debut recording from the Pacific Mozart Ensemble under the baton of conductor Lynne Morrow. A perusal of Brubeck’s choral catalog shows that most of his lyricists are beloved American poets, including Langston Hughes and Wendell Berry. This disc gives musical form to Brubeck’s love of American poets.

Dorian Sono Luminus DSL-92101
SONGS OF PRAISE: Sacred Choral Works
Pacific Mozart Ensemble • Lynne Morrow • Richard Grant

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