On Brubeck

Dave Brubeck has died. The jazz pianist was 91.

The arts critics are recalling the man’s career, paying no mind to the unschooled listener who just liked his stuff but couldn’t tell you exactly the formula for why.

Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune writes…


Throughout his career, Brubeck defied conventions long imposed on jazz musicians. The tricky meters he played in “Take Five” and other works transcended standard conceptions of swing rhythm.

The extended choral/symphonic works he penned and performed around the world took him well outside the accepted boundaries of jazz. And the concerts he brought to colleges across the country in the 1950s shattered the then-long-held notion that jazz had no place in academia.

In a profile piece last month, the Hartford Courant’s Owen McNally said Brubeck changed the portrayal of “hip.”


Radically opposite from all the damaging stereotypes of the hipster jazz musician of the post-World War II period, Brubeck has always been the clean-cut, consummate family man, the straight-shooter, a Jimmy Stewart kind of character with a profound spiritual side and with absolutely no dark side — no drug or alcohol addiction, no womanizing, just an old-fashioned, democratic sense of live and let live and firm belief in doing the right thing.

Two years ago, Clint Eastwood produced a documentary — In His Own Sweet Way — on Brubeck…

The blog, Open Culture, recalls its favorite Brubeck moment:


… December 1997, when the pianist paid a visit to the Moscow Conservatory. During his concert, an audience member asked him to improvise on the old Russian sea shanty “Ej, Uhnem.” About two minutes into the improvisation, a young violinist rose from his seat and started to play along. You just have to love Dave’s surprised look at 2:09. The young man turned out to be a student at the conservatory. His name is Denis Kolobov and he is now a violinist of international renown.

Notice how Brubeck was completely willing to play second fiddle.

In his Wilton, Connecticut town, there was to be a big Dave Brubeck birthday concert tomorrow night.