Dave Brubeck, 100

The Take Five man was born on December 6, 1920.

His mother was English, a pupil of Myra Hess.

Brubeck, who grew up on a California ranch, studied with Darius Milhaud, a French composer who adored trad jazz.

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  • I love Brubeck!
    He was always a cool jazzman, but even more importantly, he was a fighter for racial equality.

  • No no no
    He was born on December 6th.
    His mother was American (but studied with Hess in London).
    And that clip of Golden Brown is NOT Brubeck. It’s an affectionate tribute.
    Good work, Norman.

  • His birthday is also being celebrated on BBC Radio 3’s ‘J to Z’ jazz programme today (Saturday December 5th). It’s good to remember that the famous ‘Take Five’ was composed by Paul Desmond.

    • Yes Edward, and then after splitting from the Dave Brubeck group, Desmond also made a newer almost jazz fusion remake of Take Five, titled Take Ten, as one of my favorite jazz numbers of all time.

  • He had ENORMOUS hands. I saw him in concert once and brought binoculars (because I was up in the cheap seats). When his fingers were slightly spread as if he was playing an octave, he was actually playing 10ths; he could play a 12th with just a little bit of stretch.

    Someone gave my spouse the sheet music to a couple of his pieces; there was a note from the publisher at the front saying, basically, “you can’t play these chords; nobody but Dave can. You’ll have to roll them.”

    • I read somewhere that Brubeck also suffered some kind of right arm? accident which prevented him from playing fast licks like other jazz pianists.

      He was thus forced to compose tunes that were fundamentally “chordal”.

      Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Dave Brubeck and his family lived in Wilton, CT up the road from me when I lived there too. He was a major contributor to Wilton’s public library reconstruction and the auditorium is named for him.

    • I lived there too when I was a boy, my brother was a friend of Danny’s. Wilton was the model for the town in the Stepford Wives. Its author Ira Levin also lived there at the time. When I saw the film it was more like documentary than fiction.

  • Worked with Brubeck a number of times both here in Minneapolis and in St. Louis . He was a fine artist and classy gentleman. His wife, Iola, was also very special.

  • First hearing: a jazz club up on a hill in Athens, 1965, the lights dim and blue — unforgettable introduction to jazz.

  • I was lucky enough to hear Brubeck playing with Jack Six when he performed at NYJazzfest@Saratoga Springs .He played all his famous tunes like Take 5,In His Own way and Blue Rondo a la Turk as if he’d written them yesterday.
    Of course,I missed the great Paul Desmond.He was notable for not being influenced very much by bop/hard time bop.Certainly classical music was an enduring influence on his jazz.

  • I actually met Mr Brubeck while in high school. Three other drummers from Lakeland High School and myself went to a concert at the University of Tampa Armory. We we’re especially interested in hearing Joe Morello the drummer. After the concert the M C invited those in the audience to come down on stage to meet the group. It was the school year ‘62-‘63.

  • My first job as a professional violinist was playing with Dave Brubeck in the 1970’s. I have two teenaged boys learning to play Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk on the piano these days. They ask me about the different people I have played violin with over the years and are huge fans of Dave Brubeck. His music is timeless and incredible. The next generation will continue to love his music.

  • I was lucky enough to have a unique TA in my grad school days at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts back in the early 90s. I was not only the rehearsal pianist for Musica Sacra under the baton of Richard Westenburg but I also was the chorus manager. This meant collecting membership dues, purchase of music and making sure all our concert gigs were organized from bus trips to making sure the square footage on the stage was adequate for the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

    Musica Sacra performed with Dave Brubeck not only in Nicholas Theatre but also at the State Theatre in NJ in the Spring semester. I remember we were not sure whether Dave could join us as he had been ill for several months and was recuperating. We, thankfully, were the first gig that he was able to join after his health setback.

    On the program was Brubeck’s “Mass: To Hope.” It was a score I learned inside out, having been rehearsing it with the chorus for several weeks in preparation for the dress rehearsals.

    What a treat it was to meet Dave Brubeck in person and assure him that the stage was measured accordingly at both venues for the chorus and the quartet as well as the conductor’s podium. We had to squeeze the chorus of 150 onto the stages but we managed! I don’t know if stage limitations were due to renovations or if we truly took up so much space with the risers, orchestra (for other pieces on the program), soloists, piano and jazz quartet but I got it done.

    What a kind human being and amazing musician. A treasured memory, for sure.

    Thinking of him on the 100th year of his birth.

  • Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck, Dave’s mother, was born in Concord, CA. Spending a few years overseas as a student doesn’t make her English.

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