March Feature: Dave Brubeck

Feb 25, 2013

Throughout March, Night Train highlights music from throughout Brubeck's career - from the early octet to his final recordings. We'll also feature music from other musicians who worked with him over the years, including Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Cal Tjader, the Brubeck brothers, Bobby Militello, and Michael Moore.

One of the biggest losses in the music world last year was the passing of Dave Brubeck. The acclaimed pianist and composer was one of the most popular figures in jazz, with a captivating style that left a nation tapping its toes to unusual time signatures and embracing works that included classical elements and influences from other parts of the world.

Though a young Dave Brubeck thought he would follow his father and work on the family ranch, it was his pianist mother he took after instead. After a stint in the Army (where he met musical partner Paul Desmond), Brubeck studied under acclaimed modernist composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to pursue jazz and add classical elements to it.

He was part of an adventurous octet and a trio before forming his influential Quartet in 1951. With that group, Brubeck hit the college circuit, sparking renewed interest in jazz and finding himself on the cover of Time in 1954. His classic lineup, with drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, along with Brubeck and Desmond, recorded the groundbreaking Time Out album in 1959, the first jazz LP to sell a million copies. Though the hit "Take Five" from the album was written by Desmond, some of Brubeck's own compositions, like "The Duke" and "In Your Own Sweet Way" would also become jazz standards.

Though he disbanded the original Quartet in 1967, Brubeck continued to compose (including orchestral, choral, and sacred music), record (scores of albums), and perform (with a variety of lineups including sons Chris, Dan, Darius and Matthew).  He also won countless honors, among them, a National Medal of Arts, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honor, NEA Jazz Master, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dave Brubeck died just one day shy of his 92nd birthday, on December 5, 2012.

The classic Dave Brubeck Quartet on the groundbreaking Jazz Casual television show, opening with "Take Five" --

Another classic live and televised performance, this one from Moscow in 1987 --