Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Take Five—Dave Brubeck RIP

I actually got to perform with Dave Brubeck.  It was 1970 and he had written a "Jazz Oratorio" called "A Light in the Wilderness."  I was in The University of Minnesota Choir and he was coming to Minneapolis to perform one of the first examples of this work.  We worked VERY hard on our parts but to be perfectly honest, it was pretty weird to count out 42 measures while waiting to sing ten, etc.  Finally, Brubeck and company show up for dress rehearsal.  Those long pauses were for when he and his band did their thing.  Oh My!

Concert night arrives.  Our choir dressed in tuxes and black evening gowns for concerts so my fellow singers looked spectacular.  About a half hour before we went on, Brubeck stops by to thank us for all our hard work—and it WAS hard.  Because of the complexities of Brubeck's time signatures, his music was more difficult to sing than Bach or Mozart.  My female fellow singers damn near swooned around Brubeck—he was an amazingly handsome guy to go with his obvious musical genius.

We went out and swatted one out of the park.  The audience went nuts—the standing ovation lasted around 20 minutes.  Now I am sure that 98% of that ovation was for Brubeck and crew, but it was great of fun to stand on stage and listen to the waves of sound wash down from a crowd of 5000.  I have had NO problem understanding why folks go through the suffering it takes to be a good musician after that night.

The Guardian's obit can be found here.

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck dead at age 91

Howard Reich Arts critic
December 5, 2012

Dave Brubeck, a jazz musician who attained pop-star acclaim with recordings such as "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," died Wednesday morning at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., said his longtime manager-producer-conductor Russell Gloyd.

Brubeck was one day short of his 92nd birthday. He died of heart failure, en route to "a regular treatment with his cardiologist,” said Gloyd.

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.

As a pianist, he applied the classical influences of his teacher, the French master Darius Milhaud, to jazz, playing with an elegance of tone and phrase that supposedly were the antithesis of the American sound.

As a humanist, he was at the forefront of integration, playing black jazz clubs throughout the deep South in the ’50s, a point of pride for him.

"For as long as I’ve been playing jazz, people have been trying to pigeonhole me,” he once told the Tribune.

"Frankly, labels bore me."

He is survived by his wife, Iola; four sons and a daughter; grandsons and a great granddaughter. more

Blue Rondo A La Turk

Take Five

From "A Light in the Wilderness" (I am pretty sure we sounded better than this.  Of course, we were singing for Brubeck himself.)

"Chorale" from 1957—the classical-jazz fusion sound would define Brubeck's music for his whole career.

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