Thursday, January 26, 2012
December 6: Dave Brubeck is 91-years-old today. "Take Five," Dave. You earned it!
Jazz pianist David Warren "Dave" Brubeck who was born in 1920, has written a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke." He did not write the song The Dave Brucbeck Quartet is best known for, "Take Five." The piece, which is in 5/4 time and has endured as a jazz classic on the top-selling jazz album of all time, Time Out, was the creation of his long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond.
Brubeck was born in Concord, California. His father was a cattle rancher, his mother, who had studied piano in England and hoped to become a concert pianist, taught piano. Brubeck took lessons from his mother, but didn't plan on a career in music like his two older brothers, Henry and Howard.
Instead, Dave planned on becoming a rancher like his dad and enrolled in the College of the Pacific (now the University of the Pacific) studying veterinary science. He did poorly, and transferred to the music conservatory, but was nearly expelled when it was discovered he could not read music. A few professors came to his defense, and he was allowed to stay as long as he promised never to teach piano.
After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army. He was spared from service in the Battle of the Bulge when he volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show; he was such a hit he was ordered to form a band. Thus he created one of the U.S. armed forces' first racially integrated bands, "The Wolfpack." He met Paul Desmond in early 1944 while in the Army.
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After his enlistment was up Dave returned to college this time attending Mills College and studying under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration, but not classical piano.
After completing his studies, Brubeck helped to establish Berkeley, California's Fantasy Records. He worked with an octet and a trio that included Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty. Highly experimental, the trio was often joined by Paul Desmond.
Brubeck organized The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, with Desmond on saxophone. They played at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses, and recorded albums including Jazz at Oberlin, Jazz at College of the Pacific both in 1953, and in the following year, Brubeck's debut on Columbia Records, Jazz Goes to College. That same year, Brubeck, whose music is known for employing unusual time signatures, and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine, the second jazz musician to be so honored. The first was Louis Armstrong on February 21, 1949.
In 1996, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, Brubeck was awarded the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, during the University's commencement. He performed "Travellin' Blues" for the graduating class of 2006.
Brubeck founded the Brubeck Institute with his wife Iola at their alma mater, the University of the Pacific in 2000. What began as a special archive, consisting of the personal document collection of the Brubeck's has since expanded to provide fellowships and educational opportunities in jazz for students.
Brubeck was inducted into the California Hall of Fame on December 10, 2008, and, on December 6, 2009 - his 89th birthday- he became a Kennedy Center Honoree for exhibiting excellence in performance arts. On September 20, 2009, at Monterey Jazz Festival, Brubeck was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree (D.Mus. honoris causa) from Berklee College of Music.