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DAVE BRUBECK: 1920 – 2012



By Culturekiosque Staff

NEW YORK, 9 DECEMBER 2012 — The American jazz composer and  pianist Dave Brubeck died of heart failure last Wednesday in Norwalk, Connecticut. The NEA Jazz Master was 91 and just shy of his 92nd birthday the next day. Dave Brubeck, declared a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, in 2003, was one of the most popular jazz musicians in the world. His experiments with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and a distinctive harmonic approach were the hallmarks of his unique musical style. Brubeck's 1959 album Time Out was a huge hit with mainstream publics everywhere, as were his commercially sucessful singles Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk.

Born to a rancher cowboy father and a classical pianist in Concord, California, Dave Brubeck began taking piano lessons from his mother at age four. After graduating from College of the Pacific in 1942, he enlisted in the Army, and while serving in Europe led an integrated G.I. jazz band.

At the end of World War II, he studied composition at Mills College with French classical composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to introduce jazz elements into his classical compositions. This experimentation with mixed genres led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet that included Paul Desmond, Bill Smith, and Cal Tjader. In 1949, Brubeck formed an award-winning trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, and in 1951 expanded the band to include Desmond. Brubeck became the first jazz artist to make the cover of Time magazine, in 1954, and in 1958 performed in Europe and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department, leading to the introduction of music from other cultures into his repertoire. In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded an experiment in time signatures, Time Out. The album sold more than a million copies, and Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk, based on a Turkish folk rhythm, and Desmond's Take Five appeared on jukeboxes throughout the world.

Dave Brubeck
6 December 1920 – 5 December 2012

Throughout his career, Brubeck continued to experiment with integrating jazz and classical music. In 1959, he premiered and recorded his brother Howard's Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. In 1960, he composed Points on Jazz for the American Ballet Theatre, and in later decades composed for and performed with the Murray Louis Dance Co. His musical theater piece, The Real Ambassadors starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae, was also written and recorded in 1960 and performed to great acclaim at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival. The classic Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello was dissolved in December 1967 and Brubeck's first of many oratorios, The Light in the Wilderness, premiered in 1968.

He received many honors in the U.S. and abroad for his contribution to jazz, including the National Medal of Arts, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Austrian Medal of the Arts. In 2008, Brubeck received the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy from the U.S. State Department for "introducing the language, the sounds, and the spirit of jazz to new generations around the world.".

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