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.

  • Bob Moffitt

    I’ll be playing our Brubeck CD tonight. What a great talent….

  • G Long

    I first heard Brubeck play way back in 1958 on the TV show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. I was smitten from that moment on. Quite literally his music has been the cornerstone of my life since that day. It never became jaded, and always seems as fresh as the day it was composed. That just shows the genius of the man the world has lost. I had the privilege of meeting him years ago when he appeared in Aldburgh, Suffolk, and began a correspondence with him that continued to this day. I was in fact in the process of sending an email to celebrate his birthday tomorrow at the exact moment I heard the news of his passing. I am totally devastated.

    Thank you Dave for all the happy blissful hours of listening to your music. My heart goes out to his wife Iola, and all his children.

  • James

    It should also be remembered about him that he had an racially integrated band in World War II when the services were still segregated. After the war, he wouldn’t play venues that tried to segregate the band.

    He was and is an inspiration to everyone.

  • Chuck

    That clip of Brubeck with the young Russian violinist is pure genius. What a performance! It’s easy to get hung up on his jazz classics from the 1950s and the Paul Desmond years and forget that he was a creative artist right up until the end.

    I saw Dave in concert at Saint Catherine’s in 1985, part of the Kool Jazz series. One of my favorite pieces by Dave is on Christmas disc called Bending Towards the Light. On it, Dave and orchestra riff on “God’s Love Made Visible” for about 15 minutes. Fun and rollicking.

    Thanks for your incredible music, Dave.

  • http://www.bakkenphoto.com Noelle

    I was fortunate to have parents who introduced me to all sorts of music when I was young – particularly my dad, who is not only an incredible jazz musician in his own right, but is a walking encyclopedia of jazz history knowledge. Dave Brubeck was always one of our family’s favorites, and Time Out was the perennial album that was played in the minivan on annual summer trips to Door County.

    What a fabulous legacy he leaves behind.