Friday, December 07, 2012

RIP, Dave Brubeck

If your music collection doesn't include any jazz, it's incomplete. I get that it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's one of the handful of genuinely American art forms. Modern American music, by any recognizable definition of the term, rests on a foundation that consists of country music, blues, and jazz. I bring this up because we lost one of the greats of jazz music this last week. Dave Brubeck passed away this last Wednesday at the age of 91. It's hard to overstate his impact on American music in the latter 20th Century.

I was about to say that the Dave Brubeck Quartet has finally been re-united in the hereafter, but that's not entirely correct. While it's true that Paul Desmond and Joe Morello have both passed on, Eugene Wright is still with us. It's worth mentioning that Brubeck cancelled several concerts, and even a television appearance, when stage managers of the late 1950s and early 1960s resisted the idea of an integrated quartet appearing together onstage.

To get some notion of how long a shadow he's cast, here's the Quartet performing Take Five in 1966:

And here's Al Jarreau performing Take Five in 1976:

And George Benson in 1986:

And Grover Washington, Jr. in 1992:

And Axis Mundi, in 2007:

Now to be fair, Paul Desmond wrote Take Five. And it was never intended as a stand-alone hit, it was meant to be a lead-in for a Joe Morello drum solo. (During which the other band members could, you know...) But fifty, nearly sixty years later, musicians still find it a rewarding piece to play, and audiences still love it.

The good news, insofar as there is any, is that his sons are carrying on the legacy.

That's Dan Brubeck on drums, and Chris Brubeck on saxophone, in the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. Performers come and go, but the show must go on.

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