Tribute to Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck, pianist and composer, brought a cerebral approach to his music that helped bring jazz to a new level of acceptance and respectability.  He was one of the best-known and beloved musicians of our time.  He died on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, one day before his 92nd birthday.

At one time, jazz was a broadly popular, but little respected genre that was mainly considered to be “dance music”.  Brubeck’s approach to jazz and to jazz piano resulted in a new level of jazz with greater intellectual depth and respectability.  This new jazz was listened to for its own sake, and created a new kind of audience and environment – jazz in the concert hall instead of on the dance floor. “Dave’s contribution lies in the dignity he’s given jazz,” music promoter George Wein said in 1955.

One of his most popular recordings is “Take Five”, the first jazz single to achieve gold record status.  It is also a composer’s delight, with its unusual time signature (5/4) and lucid, abstract feel.  By Mr. Brubeck’s standards, 5/4 was reasonably mainstream. He also recorded music in 7/4, 9/8, 11/4, and even 13/4.

The following video, recorded live in Belgium in 1964, features Dave Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums:

One of Brubeck’s most exciting crossovers between classical and jazz is his wonderful “Points on Jazz”, an eight movement ballet based on a theme from Chopin.   The eight movements are Prelude, Scherzo, Blues, Fugue, Rag, Chorale, Waltz and A La Turk.   Here is the first movement, “Prelude”, by Piano Duo Svetlana Gorokhovich and Irina Portenko, New York, 2008:

The “Blues” movement of Points on Jazz:

The “Fugue” from Points on Jazz:

All the movements of “Points on Jazz” were based on his solo piano piece “”Dziekuje”which means “Thank You” in Polish.  Brubeck dedicated this piece to Chopin after visiting his home in Poland.  This video is Brubeck performing in a 2000 concert celebrating the 300th anniversary of the piano.

Thank you, Dave Brubeck, for all the music you gave us.

Dave Brubeck – Dec. 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012

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