Dave Brubeck

2014 Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck was a surprise success with his jazz group the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Brubeck has always been true to his music, never altering his style in order to gain commercial success. His success was earned and his talent is genuine. As a child, his mother trained him in classical music. He had a natural ear and was able to fool his mother for years by memorizing his lessons without actually learning to read music. He gained more musical expertise while attending the College of the Pacific and leading a service band in General Patton's Army during World War II. After he was released from service he began studying with classical composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to play jazz.

Brubeck's love of jazz blossomed and he soon formed a group of fellow classmates and recorded on Fantasy records under the name The Dave Brubeck Octet. The music contained complex time signatures and Brubeck's unique use of polytonality. The radical new music hit the scene without much success. The complexities of the rhythm and melodies were too much for some. Brubeck decided to tone down his work and formed a trio with drummer Cal Tjader and bassist Ron Crotty. Again recording on Fantasy Records, the group garnered some praise from critics in the Bay Area. Just as the trio was attracting a following, Brubeck hurt his back during a serious swimming accident and was forced to leave the group for months.

Brubeck returned in 1951 with altoist Paul Desmond, making the former trio a quartet. Within two years of Brubeck's return, the quartet had become a major success. Brubeck and Desmond worked well together, and soon their musical collaborations were well known in the jazz community. As the group gained popularity and their schedule became more hectic, the previous drummer resigned and was replaced by Joe Morello. The bass position was taken up by Eugene Wright and the bands line-up was finally set. The group released some big selling albums on Columbia records in the late 1950s. Brubeck used the band's popularity to expose the world to Desmond's work with odd time signatures like 7/4 and 9/8. Hits like 'Take Five' took the jazz scene by storm.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet traveled constantly during the next decade. Brubeck and his wife organized an anti-racism show featuring Louis Armstrong. The show was recorded and released but only made one public appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Tickets sold around the world for the dazzling stage shows of original Brubeck and Desmond compositions. After a successful decade, the quartet broke up in 1967. After some time off, Brubeck came back with a new quartet featuring Gerry Mulligan and had several reunions with Desmond. Later, Brubeck was joined by his sons Darius, Chris, and Danny to form Two Generations of Brubeck in the 1970s. By the early 80s the quartet was reformed, with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and clarinetist Bill Smith.

After decades of composing, performing, and recording, Dave Brubeck is still going strong. His albums are still readily available in record stores across the country and many of his compositions, like 'In your Own Sweet Way', 'The Duke', and 'Blue Rondo a la Turk', have become standards. Tickets to live performances are still in high demand, and Brubeck has lost none of his stage presence over the years. Though performances are not as frequent as they once were, Dave Brubeck delivers at every show.


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