Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012.

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck passed away at the age of 91.

Thank you for the beautiful, beautiful music.

(LA Times)


  1. I have a number of friends who are self-described “music nerds” (e.g. have university degrees in music and the like), and it’s been interesting to hear from that about how polarizing was The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

    The argument usually follows Brubeck making a brand of Jazz that was more mainstream and more palatable/accessible for casual listeners.  There are those[avoid weasel words!] who feel that his works (specifically the “Time” series) were essentially pop-music with drum brushing and they did nothing to challenge the listener. Instead the music was calorie-free “Jazz-like music” that then allowed casual listeners to say “Yeah, I LOVE Jazz music!” without having a deeper appreciation.

    The canonical example I hear is that “Time Out” is the Official Background Music of Starbucks Coffee Houses[citation required!].

    Which is not to say I feel that way myself.  The first LP I bought (admittedly only two years ago) was a reissue of “Time Out”, and it’s still my favourite.

    1. Time out is fantastic. Truly good music can also be popular, although that is clearly not always the case.
      The first time I heard Take Five, it was echoing in a subway. It was gritty and great. And it took me a while to find out what song it was: I was on a mission. Some people like to criticize music for the mere pleasure of trying to separate themselves from everyone else.

      1. Yeah. I think some people start from the position that if the ‘masses’ enjoy or understand it, it cannot be real music and then construct an argument to justify their misplaced sense of superiority.

    2. “The canonical example I hear is that “Time Out” is the Official Background Music of Starbucks Coffee Houses.”

      What’s the problem with that (if it were true), is there not already enough “that would make you beautiful” in the background?  (or going the other way, what do they want with their coffee break, SPK?)  I don’t recall ever hearing Brubeck in a Starbucks (not that I’m in there a lot), much less at the levels of repetition that might make it “official.”

      (Where’d yer pals get these music degrees, anyway?)

      For a long time I was impressed that Panera (and, before them Einstein Bros.) would play straight-up hard bop, or something that sounds very much like the late 50s/early 60s Blue Note catalog.  Unfortunately they seem to have backed away from it.

      The Telegraph’s obit offers this cool anecdote:

      Learning that Arnold Schoenberg was living in exile in Los Angeles, Brubeck applied to study with him and brought along some music he had written: “[Schoenberg] wanted to know the reason for every note. I said, ‘Because it sounds good,’ and he said that wasn’t an adequate reason, and we got into a huge argument.” The relationship ended after two lessons.

    3. Jazz is so great, it’s a shame that many jazz fans belong to the “if anyone outside our clique likes it, it must suck” school of snobbery. 

      I’ve known a few of them – they are generally the same people who think that “true jazz” is a solo saxophone playing the same six notes undulating up and down for thirty minutes straight.

      1.  Most of the people I know with a real knowledge of music theory, and who can determine what’s happening in a jazz piece by ear alone, are the ones who find the more obtuse jazz “interesting,” but don’t listen to it for enjoyment. Sure, they’ll visit a live performance, but they listen for what’s interesting and for individual skill. When they go home, they listen to popular music or to the ‘best versions’ of a recorded song.

        I think the average jazz fan who doesn’t understand music theory believes that if they don’t understand what’s happening, it’s by definition “complex” and therefore “good.” Just like spending thousands of dollars on audiophile equipment without understanding electrical engineering, or buying hundred dollar bottles of wine without developing your palate. It’s using money or obscurity to show off.

  2. I had the pleasure of seeing him and his recent group in concert twice in the last 10 years.  He will be missed, but of course there are plenty of recordings available.  If you want to dig deeper than just Time Out, I recommend checking out the the live recording “At Carnegie Hall.”  It has Blue Rondo a la Turk and Take Five, plus 10 more tracks.  It’s a nice show, and you can easily purchase a copy in the usual places.

    1. He came to the University of Georgia in 2008 to perform his oratorio The Light in the Wilderness with the UGA symphony orchestra and choirs, which I was in at the time.  I got to perform with him, but unfortunately never got a chance to meet him.  He seemed like a really nice guy, and he could still play the hell out of a piano.

    2. He played in Northampton, Massachusetts about six years ago. Gddmn beautiful, and a legend just a couple of yards from where I sat. When they did “Over the Rainbow,” they were filling my silent request. 4/5 of the piece is a solo by Brubeck — not the same as on the 50s LP, to be sure (he didn’t repeat himself), but still a piece of heaven.

      On the 4th, I happened to pick up a used CD of him playing solo piano Christmas music. I’ve been listening to one or two cuts per day since then. He remains an inspiration.

  3. First jazz I ever remember hearing was “Theme From Black Orpheus” by Paul Desmond, listening with my uncle. I instantly fell in love with jazz, and we got back home, and he played Brubeck’s “Take 5”. That was it.

    I was a young white kid that listened only to Metallica. Ever since then, I have branched out to learn the wonders of every music, thanks to my uncle that day, with Desmond & Brubeck. And I am a better person for it.

    Sleep tight Dave, you will be missed.

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