Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist and composer, died at 91

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Dead, David Warren “Dave” Brubeck on December 5, 2012, he 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.”

Born December 6, 1920 in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Concord, California, and grew up in Ione.

His father, Peter Howard “Pete” Brubeck, was a cattle rancher, and his mother, Elizabeth (née Ivey), who had studied piano in England under Myra Hess and intended to become a concert pianist, taught piano for extra money.

His father had Swiss ancestry (the family surname was originally “Brodbeck”) and possibly Native American Modoc lineage, while his maternal grandparents were English and German.

After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in Europe in the Third Army.

He volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show and was such a hit that he was spared from combat service and ordered to form a band.

He created one of the U.S. armed forces’ first racially integrated bands, “The Wolfpack”.

While serving in the military, Brubeck met Paul Desmond in early 1944.

He returned to college after serving nearly four years in the army, this time attending Mills College in Oakland.

He studied under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration, but not classical piano.

While on active duty, he received two lessons from Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA in an attempt to connect with High Modernism theory and practice.

However, the encounter did not end on good terms since Schoenberg believed that every note should be accounted for, an approach which Brubeck could not accept, although according to his son Chris Brubeck, there is a twelve-tone row in The Light in the Wilderness, Dave Brubeck’s first oratorio.

In a long and successful career, Mr. Brubeck brought a distinctive mixture of experimentation and accessibility that won over listeners who had been trained to the sonic dimensions of the three-minute pop single.

Mr. Brubeck experimented with time signatures and polytonality and explored musical theater and the oratorio, baroque compositional devices and foreign modes.

He did not always please the critics, who often described his music as schematic, bombastic and — a word he particularly disliked — stolid.

But his very stubbornness and strangeness — the blockiness of his playing, the oppositional push-and-pull between his piano and Paul Desmond’s alto saxophone — make the Brubeck quartet’s best work still sound original.

In the late 1940s and early ’50s Mr. Brubeck also led a trio with Ron Crotty on bass and Cal Tjader on drums.

It was around this time that he started to develop an audience. He was given an initial boost by the San Francisco disc jockey Jimmy Lyons, later the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival, who plugged the band on KNBC radio and helped secure it a record deal with Coronet.

In 1951 the trio expanded to a quartet, with Mr. Desmond returning. (The permanent lineup change was perhaps inevitable, as Mr. Desmond was desperate to join his old friend’s increasingly popular band, but it may also have had to do with physical necessity: Mr. Brubeck had suffered a serious neck injury while swimming in Hawaii, limiting his dexterity, and he needed another soloist to help carry the music.) As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious themes and to bridge social and political divides.

His cantata “The Gates of Justice,” from 1969, dealt with blacks and Jews in America; another cantata, “Truth Is Fallen” (1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra, electric guitars and police sirens.



 

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