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Dave Brubeck

In the 1950s and '60s, few American jazz artists were as influential, and fewer still were as popular, as Dave Brubeck. At a time when the cooler sounds of West Coast jazz began to dominate the public face of the music, Brubeck proved there was an audience for the style far beyond the confines of the in-crowd, and with his emphasis on unusual time signatures and adventurous tonalities, Brubeck showed that ambitious and challenging music could still be accessible. And as rock & roll began to dominate the landscape of popular music at the dawn of the '60s, Brubeck enjoyed some of his greatest commercial and critical success, expanding the audience for jazz and making it hip with young adults and college students.

David Warren Brubeck was born in Concord, California on December 6, 1920. Brubeck grew up surrounded by music -- his mother was a classically trained pianist and his two older brothers would become professional musicians -- and he began receiving piano lessons when he was four years old. Brubeck showed an initial reluctance to learn to read music, but his natural facility for the keyboard and his ability to pick up melodies by ear allowed him to keep this a secret for several years. His father worked as a cattle rancher, and in 1932, his family moved from Concord to a 45,000-acre spread near the foothills of the Sierras. As a teenager, Brubeck was passionate about music and performed with a local dance band in his spare time, but he planned to follow a more practical career path and study veterinary medicine. However, after enrolling in the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, Brubeck played piano in local night spots to help pay his way, and his enthusiasm for performing was such that one of his professors suggested he would be better off studying music. Brubeck followed this advice and graduated in 1942, though several of his instructors were shocked to learn that he still couldn't read music.

Brubeck left college as World War II was in full swing, and he was soon drafted into the Army; he served under Gen. George S. Patton, and would have fought in the Battle of the Bulge had he not been asked to play piano in a Red Cross show for the troops. Brubeck was requested to put together a jazz band with his fellow soldiers, and he formed a combo called "the Wolfpack," a multi-racial ensemble at a time when the military was still largely segregated. Brubeck was honorably discharged in 1946, and enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied under the French composer Darius Milhaud. Unlike many composers in art music, Milhaud had a keen appreciation for jazz, and Brubeck began incorporating many of Milhaud's ideas about unusual time signatures and polytonality into his jazz pieces. In 1947, Brubeck formed a band with several other Mills College students, the Dave Brubeck Octet. However, the Octet's music was a bit too adventurous for the average jazz fan at the time, and Brubeck moved on to a more streamlined trio with Cal Tjader on vibes and percussion and Ron Crotty on bass. Brubeck made his first commercial recordings with this trio for California's Fantasy Records, and while he developed a following in the San Francisco Bay Area, a back injury Brubeck received during a swimming accident prevented him from performing for several months and led him to restructure his group.

In 1951, the Dave Brubeck Quartet made their debut, with the pianist joined by Paul Desmond on alto sax; Desmond's easygoing but adventurous approach was an ideal match for Brubeck. While the Quartet's rhythm section would shift repeatedly over the next several years, in 1956 Joe Morello became their permanent drummer, and in 1958, Eugene Wright took over as bassist. By this time, Brubeck's fame had spread far beyond Northern California; Brubeck's recordings for Fantasy had racked up strong reviews and impressive sales, and along with regular performances at jazz clubs, the Quartet began playing frequent concerts at college campuses across the country, exposing their music to a new and enthusiastic audience that embraced their innovative approach. Brubeck and the Quartet had become popular enough to be the subject of a November 8, 1954 cover story in Time Magazine, only the second time that accolade had been bestowed on a jazz musician (Louis Armstrong made the cover in 1949). In 1955, Brubeck signed with Columbia Records, then America's most prestigious record company, and his first album for the label, Brubeck Time, appeared several months later.

A steady stream of live and studio recordings followed as the Dave Brubeck Quartet became the most successful jazz act in the United States, and in 1959, they released one of their most ambitious albums yet, Time Out, a collection of numbers written in unconventional time signatures, such as 5/4 and 9/8. While Columbia were initially reluctant to release an album they felt was too arty for the mainstream, their fears proved groundless -- Time Out became the first jazz album to sell a million copies, and in 1961, it bounded back into the charts when "Take Five" unexpectedly took off as a single, rising to 25 on the pop charts and five on the adult contemporary survey.

As Brubeck enjoyed increasing commercial success, he began exploring new musical avenues; in 1959, the Brubeck Quartet performed with the New York Philharmonic, performing "Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra," a piece written by Howard Brubeck, Dave's brother. Dave's own composition "Elementals," written for orchestra and jazz ensemble, debuted in 1962; "Elementals" was later adapted into a dance piece by choreographer Lar Lubovitch. And Brubeck and his wife, Iola, wrote a song cycle called "The Real Ambassadors" that celebrated the history of jazz while decrying racism; it was performed at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival, with contributions from Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. The Brubeck Quartet also became international stars, with the State Department arranging for them to perform in locales rarely visited by jazz artists, including Poland, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sri Lanka.

In 1967, Brubeck dissolved the Dave Brubeck Quartet and began devoting more time to composing longer works that often focused on his spiritual beliefs, including an oratorio for jazz ensemble and orchestra, "The Light in the Wilderness," which debuted in 1968; "The Gates of Justice," first performed in 1969, which melded passages from the Bible with the writings of Martin Luther King, and "Upon This Rock," which was written for Pope John Paul II's visit to San Francisco in 1987. Brubeck continued to perform in a more traditional jazz format as well, forming a new combo in 1968 featuring Jack Six on bass, Alan Dawson on drums, and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. In the '70s, Brubeck also toured with a group featuring his sons Darius (keyboards), Chris (bass and trombone), and Dan (drums); dubbed Two Generations of Brubeck, the ensemble performed a bracing fusion of jazz, rock, and blues. In 1976, Brubeck reassembled the classic lineup of the Dave Brubeck Quartet for a 25th anniversary tour; the reunion was cut short by the death of Paul Desmond in 1977.

From the mid-'80s onward, Brubeck maintained a schedule that would befit a rising star eager to make a name for himself rather than a respected elder statesman. He continued to compose orchestral works as well as fresh jazz pieces, and recorded and performed on a regular basis with a variety of accompanists. Perhaps the most honored jazz artist of his generation, Brubeck received awards from two sitting United States Presidents -- Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of the Arts in 1994, and Barack Obama presented him with the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009. Brubeck also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a lifetime achievement Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal, and honorary degrees from universities in five different countries, among many other awards for his life in music. When he died of heart failure late in 2012, just one day before his 92nd birthday, his life and his work were celebrated around the world. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Indian Summer

1. You'll Never Know

2. I'm Alone

3. Autumn In Our Town

4. So Lonely

5. I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over

6. I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You

7. Pacific Hail

8. September Song

9. Summer Song

10. Thank You

11. Georgia On My Mind

12. Spring Is Here

13. Sweet Lorraine

14. Memories Of You

15. This Love Of Mine

16. Indian Summer


Track List: Plays For Lovers

2. My Romance

3. Stardust

4. Love Is Here To Stay

5. My Heart Stood Still

7. I See Your Face Before Me

8. For All We Know

9. Imagination

11. I'm Old Fashioned


Track List: London Flat, London Sharp

1. London Flat, London Sharp

2. To Sit And Dream

3. The Time Of Our Madness

4. Unisphere

5. Steps To Peace

6. Forty Days

7. Cassandra

8. Yes, We All Have Our Cross To Bear

9. Mr. Fats

10. Ballad Of The Rhine


Track List: Private Brubeck Remembers


Track List: One Alone

1. That Old Feeling

2. I'll Never Smile Again

3. One Alone

4. You've Got Me Crying Again

5. Someone To Watch Over Me

6. Just Squeeze Me

7. Harbor Lights

8. Things Ain't What They Used To Be

9. Summer Song

10. Red Sails In The Sunset

11. weep No More

12. Bye Bye Blues

13. Over The Rainbow


Track List: Dave Brubeck Love Songs

1. My Romance

2. What Is This Thing Called Love

3. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)

4. In Your Own Sweet Way

5. Somewhere

6. La Paloma Azul

7. Audrey

8. You Go To My Head

9. Like Someone In Love


Track List: Jazz Collection

Disc 1

1. Le Souk

2. Stompin' For Mili

3. In Your Own Sweet Way

4. History Of A Boy Scout (We Crossed The Rhine)

5. Home At Last

6. Some Day My Prince Will Come

8. The Golden Horn

9. Georgia On My Mind

10. Three To Get Ready

11. Blue Rondo A La Turk

Disc 2

1. Take Five

2. Darktown Strutter's Ball

3. There'll Be Some Changes Made

4. Somewhere

5. Weep No More

6. Unsquare Dance

7. Summer Song

8. Non-Sectarian Blues

9. Bossa Nova U.S.A

10. It's A Raggy Waltz

11. The World's Fair

12. Fujiyama

13. Upstage Rumba

15. La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove)

16. Recuerdo

17. St. Louis Blues


Track List: Time In

1. Lost Waltz

2. Softly, William, Softly

3. Time in

4. 40 Days

5. Travellin' Blues

6. He Done Her Wrong

7. Lonesome

8. Cassandra


Track List: Time Out

1. Blue Rondo A La Turk

2. Strange Meadow Lark

3. Take Five

4. Three To Get Ready

5. Kathy's Waltz

6. Everybody's Jumpin'

7. Pick Up Sticks


Track List: Jazz At The College Of The Pacific

1. All The Things You Are

3. Lullaby In Rhythm

4. I'll Never Smile Again

6. For All We Know


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Saw him LIVE 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973. I was and still am - blown away.
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1 of the best songs ever made RIP DAVE
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MERAVIGLIA !!!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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They don't make them like Dave Brubeck anymore. When he died 4 yrs ago I remember thinking I thought he would love forever ��
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A jazz legend. There is no comparison. His unique timing in his music will set him apart from all the rest.
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Listened to them more hours than I can count from when I Graduated from High School back in the 50's then in the service and on and on. Etc., Etc.
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Grate music & grate musician.
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The absolute best
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Love Glenn Miller& Jimmy Dorsey, Helen. O'Connell! Thanks
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Wish I could give you a big THANK YOU, Dave.
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I developed a lifetime love of jazzbecase
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The Dave Brubeck Quartet will live forever in the hearts of us all who love Jazz. The all time greatest of Jazz improv...... . . . 5 stars for sure.......H e and Paul Desmond are missed very much. RIP
Thanks Pandora for bringing them back to me....
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Take five - Dave Brubeck off his Time out set: I was once in a radio announcers discussion on music of the various decades and made the point that it should be remembered that the 50's was also a rich period for jazz which made everyone laugh in derision. Dave Brubeck's Take Five is an instance of what I was referring to, not to mention also it was a period that was good to George Shearing, Kostelanetz, Satchmo was still recording new stuff, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Modern Jazz Quartet etc
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Do that thing, with the thing, about the thing.
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I'm would like to discover bassist like sam jones

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Dave Brubeck, thank you and may God bless you, I know he's enjoying you playing the piano at this very moment, play on Dave
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Only once in a life time do we have the honor of listening to and enjoying such wonderful music, " Jazz "
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Classic jazz and the world is a better place
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R.I.P. Dave...
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Take Five... One of the BEST songs ever recorded, period!
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West coast is the best!
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This is still the coolest 50 years on...
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He was a national treasure!
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Cool man cool
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This man & his quartet - Their Style of Play - is how I learned to understand Modern Jazz. I will truly miss him!
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Paul Desmond wrote the tune...not often given the credit for it though.
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Dave Brubeck's daughter, Catherine, is often left out of his life's work. She is as lovely inside and out as any of his life's work. :-) They are a delightful family. It always was a pleasure being with them.
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Timeless classic..... . . .
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What happened to Elvis and Tom Addison or how about Hannah Montana I'm upset with her not Hannah Montana I meant Boston ( sighs) ahhhhhhh
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diane ross
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One of the great artists of the 20th century
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Yes!!!!````` ` ` ` all i need to say.
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Oh yeah, I'll drink to that.
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nicolasfvilc h e s
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I was at the Ann Arbor concert that is most of Jazz Goes to College. The piano was retuned during the interval, and after that one key stuck down. Whenever he hit that key he had to reach down and pull it up again. You can hear audience mutter about that early in Brubeck's solo. The final song, I Want to Be Happy, has the last 4 bar drum solo that was so simple yet perfect the entire audience spontaneousl y stood up and cheered. My favorite album of all time.
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mariettanola n d
Take Five made me start listening.
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Wow what talent! Just superb!!!
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the man is a great artist
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Absolutely love Take Five and of course all of his music! Pure talent.
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I was introduced to the music of Dave Brubeck when my brother received Jazz Impressions of Eurasia for Christmas in '57 or '58. The album is just as fresh today as it was then, a testament to the genius of Brubeck and the timelessness of jazz. Thanks, Dave!
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I will bet none of you have heard the Arab band do TAKE FIVE on sitar with bongos and 25 violins. Directed by Shachal orchestra. In England..
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Time Out with the Dave Brubeck Quartet is the first jazz album I ever bought. I played it so much I wore it out. Those pieces resonate with my musical DNA and I love them all. Three To Get Ready is the star piece possibly because that's what I'm hearing right now. I bought many Brubeck albums, and they are all wonderful, but Time Out is special for many reasons including it was my first Brubeck album. If there is a heaven for me it would be in a club listening to this music.
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Yes, Classic!! Recalls the days when music was music! Thanks so much!!!!
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First heard his trio (with Cal Tjader) on radio in San Francisco, circa '51 - was visiting dad - also then, heard Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker for first time - became an instant convert - still listen to their recordings, and now at age 76 I'm taking Jazz piano lessons from jazz pro, Sean Johnson and loving it (but it is much more difficult than ever imagined - theory, etc.) Saw Dave, Paul, Joe, et al at Sardi's, and the Palladium in Hollywood, then much later at the Crystal Cathedral in OC, Ca
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i learned to play drums from listening to Joey Dodge and then Joe Morello.
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