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 Saturday, 28 November 2015
Take “Time Out” for Dave Brubeck: At Orchestra Hall, May 25th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Dave Brubeck is an American legend. He is an American original who continues to make significant contributions to music and introduced a whole new generation to the world of jazz.”
– Clint Eastwood

Dave Brubeck

One of the most popular jazz artists of all time, 87-year-old Dave Brubeck continues to perform and record with the 21st century edition of his famed quartet. It was fifty years ago that the Dave Brubeck Quartet embarked on its first fame Cultural Ambassadors tour for the U.S. State Department. In April 2008, Brubeck was honored as one of the inaugural recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Awards for Public Diplomacy. Jazz piano, of course, is what most of us think of when we hear the name Brubeck, and Dave and his quartet will honor their own legacy at Minnesota Orchestra Hall on Sunday night, May 25th.

Born in Concord, CA in 1920, Brubeck’s first teacher was his mother, who tried to steer him toward classical music. From the age of four, young Dave was always more interested in creating his own compositions (and avoiding learning to read sheet music), although he initially wanted to pursue a career as a rancher. He enrolled at the College of the Pacific intending to study veterinary medicine, but music called too loudly and Brubeck switched majors, earning his degree despite his inability (at the time) to read music. During his college years he played in local jazz clubs and met and married wife Iola, who directed the campus radio show on which he was often featured. Shortly after graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the Army, but managed to avoid combat duty by playing for American troops throughout Europe. He served in the same unit with future collaborator Paul Desmond.

Seeking a more serious music education, Brubeck enrolled at Mills College after his discharge, and began studies of polytonality and polyrhythms with composer Darius Milhaud. Milhaud strongly encouraged Brubeck to follow his jazz inclinations, not classical music as is often assumed. After playing in an octet and trio with vibes master Cal Tjader, in 1949 Brubeck joined the Paul Desmond Trio, which disbanded soon thereafter when Desmond left. Brubeck then organized his first Dave Brubeck Trio based in Oakland, CA, which often featured Desmond sitting in. In 1951, the ensemble officially became a quartet with Desmond on sax, Bob Bates on bass and Joe Dodge on drums, finding early success touring college campuses and serving as the house band at the Blackhawk in San Francisco. Brubeck and the quartet released their first album, Jazz at Oberlin, in 1953, which was one of the first jazz recordings from a live concert. A contract with Columbia and Jazz Goes to College soon followed, selling 100,000 copies and leading Time Magazine to make Brubeck the first jazz musician since Louis Armstrong to be featured on its cover.

In 1956, personnel changes created what became the most acclaimed of the Brubeck Quartets, with Brubeck, Desmond, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums. The pianist’s famed experiments with time signatures were well underway, and in 1959 the quartet released Time Out with all original compositions. “Take Five” became Brubeck’s signature tune, although it was composed by Desmond based on Morello’s 5/4 riff; the album also featured the ever-popular Brubeck composition, “Blue Rhondo a la Turk,” an experiment in 9/8 time based on Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca".

ImageThe Dave Brubeck Quartet became an international sensation in the late 50s and early 60s, appearing throughout the world including in venues behind the Iron Curtain. The Quartet released a number of recordings of time experiments, including Time Further Out and Time in Outer Space, and a series based on local music, Jazz Impressions of USA, Jazz Impressions of Japan, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia and Jazz Impressions of New York. At the same time, Brubeck sought to expand his composer’s palette, writing Points of Jazz (performed by the American Ballet Theater), scoring The Real Ambassadors (performed at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival by Louis Armstrong). In the early 60s, Brubeck was also the music director for WJZZ Radio, an all-jazz format station that survived until the British invasion led to the inevitable switch to a rock-hit line-up.

By 1967, diverging interests led to the disbanding of what has become known as Brubeck’s “classic quartet.” Over the next decades, Brubeck continued his prolific composing of ballets, scores, oratorios, cantatas, symphonic pieces, classical compositions, liturgical compositions (including a contemporary mass), and Native American-inspired compositions. He continued to play with Paul Desmond til the saxophonist’s death in 1977, and then performed with Gerry Mulligan. He later formed a quartet with his sons Dan, Darius, and Chris, all jazz artists in their own rights. Today, Brubeck tours again in a “new” quartet (with Bobby Militello, Michael Moore and Randy Jones), hitting about 80 cities in the US and Europe each year. He’s worked recently with the London Symphony Orchestra and performed a new work, the “Cannery Row Suite” (co-written with Iola) at the 2006 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Dave Brubeck’s growing list of honors includes election to the Down Beat Hall of Fame, San Francisco Jazz Festival Laureate, an appearance at the Reagan-Gorbachev Moscow Summit in 1988, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, National Medal of the Arts, composing a score for Pope John Paul II's visit to San Francisco in 1987, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1996), NEA Jazz Master (2000), numerous honorary doctorate degrees, a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, and a doctorate degree from Duisberg University -- the first doctorate degree awarded to an American jazz musician from a German university. Earlier this year, Brubeck was awarded the BBC Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award, and will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival. Actor/director Clint Eastwood is working on a documentary about the life of this amazing, and ageless, musician, who has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award honored Dave for his “outstanding leadership in advancing America's ideals through public diplomacy by offering a positive vision of hope and opportunity rooted in America's belief in freedom, justice, opportunity and respect for all.”

In 2000, the University of the Pacific honored Dave and Iola Brubeck by creating The Brubeck Institute, honoring their dedication to music, education, and the advancement of important social issues. Five core programs of the Institute include the Brubeck Archive, Brubeck Festival, Brubeck Outreach Program, Brubeck Fellowship Program, and the Summer Jazz Colony.

In summer 2007, Dave Brubeck released his 18th album for Telarc, Indian Summer, a solo follow-up to the 2004 release, Private Brubeck Remembers. Featuring a mix of standards along with some of Brubeck’s most contemporary (and complex) compositions, the sixteen tracks might be considered his sonic autobiography, “uniformly exquisite, imaginative, and elegant” (Jeff Tamarkin, All Music Guide).[Click here for a Jazz Police review]

Apparently there is no “time out” for Brubeck at 87.  Make his May 25th appearance at Orchestra Hall part of you Memorial Day Weekend festivities!

The Dave Brubeck Quartet performs at 7 pm at Minnesota Orchestra Hall at 11th and Nicolle Mall in downtown Minneapolis. For tickets see

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