Dave Brubeck

The late Dave Brubeck left behind a legacy as a jazz pianist, composer, bandleader, husband, and father. He wrote everything that ranged from opera and ballet, to a contemporary mass. Brubeck was well known for experimenting with time signatures unusual to the traditional jazz sound. The uneven meters, along with the incorporation of all kinds of different rhythms in his music, is how he captivated the attention of younger listeners. The significance of Brubeck in the history of jazz is unambiguous.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet helped spark an obscure interest in Jazz after World War II, and was a fundamental part of the “West Coast Cool Jazz” style of music that jazz in the fifties and sixties would be known for. David Warren Brubeck, born on December 6, 1920 in Concord, California, “was one of Jazz’s first pop stars. ”(Brown) In his younger years, his mother Elizabeth played an immense role in the conditioning of his music career. His two older brothers were musicians and Brubeck himself would eventually be playing at weekend dances by the age of fourteen. His schedule was from nine at night to as late as four in the morning.

The strenuousness of it caused him to find playing unappealing, and he pursued his dream of being a rancher. His family had moved to a ranch in Ione, California when he was eleven, so he knew how things on the ranch worked. By the time he was eighteen, though reluctant to leave, he attended The College of Pacific in Stockton, California with the intent to study to become a veterinarian and return to the ranch. After only a year, he decided to change his major to music. While in still enrolled in college he, along with a man by the name of Darius Milhaud, whom Brubeck’s first son would eventually be named after, led a twelve piece band.

By 1942, he met his wife Iola Whitlock and graduated that year with a degree in music. Immediately following, he enlisted in the Army. In 1944, Brubeck was sent to Europe, however, he never actually fought, but played for troops because of his musical aptness. “He traveled to the front lines, but armed with a piano instead of a weapon. ”(Taylor) By the time he was twenty five years old Dave Brubeck was finished serving in the Army and went back to school, this time attending Mills College on a G. I Bill Scholarship where he reconnected with Milhaud.

The two founded the experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble, and in 1949 it would record as the Dave Brubeck Octet. This was a crucial start to his music career. Later on in the year of 1949 The Dave Brubeck Trio was organized with band members Ron Crotty and Cal Tjader. The trio came to an end before it began due to a neck injury that ended the career of Brubeck for at least six months. Brubeck returned to playing in 1951 with the creation of The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The quartet was comprised of Joe Morello, Paul Desmond (whom Brubeck met while in the Army), and Gene Wright.

By 1952 it was categorized as one of Jazz’s greatest combinations. They signed with Fantasy Records in 1953 and released their first album, Jazz at Oberlin. The following year, David Brubeck was featured on the cover of Time magazine. He was only the second jazz artist to be on the cover. The quartet later signed with Columbia Records and began the experimentation with time signatures. The result was the album Time Out. The Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded in 1967 and only regrouped once in 1976 for the twenty fifth anniversary.

Though the quartet came to an end, Brubeck’s career did not. After the breakup of the quartet, Brubeck spent much of his time with his wife, and five children. He did however stick with music. He went on to write at least an oratorio, four cantatas, a contemporary mass, and two ballets. That only lasted a year because in 1968 he created another quartet with Gerry Mulligan and his sons. The late seventies arrived and he was still composing, touring, and performing. In the year 1999, he was named a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ten years later, he received a Kennedy Center Honor for his contributions to the American Culture. Also in 2009, his son Michael passed away and many health problems began to arise. Brubeck underwent heart surgery in 2010 at the age of ninety but was up and performing again a month later. On Wednesday, December 5th 2012, David Warren Brubeck died. He passed on, one day before his ninety second birthday. The Jazz Legend may be gone, but he left behind four sons, a daughter, his wife, ten grandchildren, four great grandchildren, and music that will outlive everyone.