Dave Brubeck Friday Five Fer


That's Me, The Silent Son
Mar 16, 2018
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Drumline in the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
At Snappy’s request, I’m happily taking a couple weeks of the Friday Five Fer.

For my first round, I go with Dave Brubeck, dedicated to my Uncle who introduced me to this music around the time of my 18th Thanksgiving. While family grouped off in other rooms, he graciously invited me to his living room where he dropped the needle on track after track of some very precious vinyl, most of which was passed onto me by my dear Aunt a few years ago. In later years, he took me to see the quartet perform on three occasions. Our Rat Terrier is named Brubeck after my Uncle, who died just three months before we got him.

Brubeck’s music is that rare form of art that delights me by exhilarating both sides of my brain at once. How one man’s music can spring from a framework of such carefully measured, mathematical experimentation, and yet evoke such sweetly sensitive and floral beauty, only shows what a blessed talent he (and his collaborators) truly was. For those of you familiar with the visual presentation of M.C. Escher or the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th century, you’ll find a similar aesthetic here, conjoining strictly regimented, geometric form with the sublime expressions of nature’s softest, most feminine beauty. Likewise, Brubeck has always excited me this same way, and whether it was jazz that “could swing” was always of secondary consideration to my ears. His music both turns my wheels and chokes my throat.

1946-1950 - Dave Brubeck Octet, “The Prisoner’s Song”
A project consisting almost entirely of students of Brubeck’s beloved mentor, Darius Milhaud, and an immediate introduction to names that would be associated with Dave’s career long after. Given the large-ensemble, wartime dance-music this era had only recently produced, right away these horn arrangements are instantly a fresh foretaste of things to come.

1953 - Jazz at Oberlin, “How High the Moon”
Considered one of the best live jazz albums ever, this is the Brubeck album that introduces the idea of jazz being played for a college campus, and the young audience could not be more enthusiastic. Although it predates Joe Morello and the Senator, Paul Desmond and Dave are on fire here. I beam like a fool through the whole solo section.

1961 - Countdown: Time in Outer Space, “Castilian Blues/Drums” (Live version)
In what became his signature reputation, Dave shows how to create a catchy melody that will get into your head and stay there, no matter how unconventional the time signature. Dave created endless choices by that description, making it obviously difficult to be limited to a single example. I could easily have gone with Far More Blue, Unisphere, or certainly any of the familiar classics.

1965 - Time In, “Forty Days”
No matter the time signature, Dave shows you can just as easily create a sweet and poignant melody that might make you weep. This emotional track was reworked for orchestra & choral voices three years later when Dave wrote his first oratorio, “A Light In the Wilderness.”

1997 - In Their Own Sweet Way, “We Will All Remember Paul”
One of just a precious few recordings featuring Dave performing with all four of his sons who followed him professionally. Apparently, the Brubeck family had gotten snowed in one Christmas, and with a vacant studio available nearby, they decided to throw an album together. This song honors the late Paul Desmond, who had been like an uncle to Dave’s children and even bequeathed his saxophone to one of the boys.

This features Danny on drums, Matthew on cello, Chris on electric bass & trombone, and Darius on piano. Darius is Dave’s oldest boy, named for his beloved mentor, which brings my list full circle.

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Ringo Fire
Aug 5, 2005
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Phoenix, AZ
What timing. I didn't see this thread until just now (day after you posted), after I already put some DBQ on my Chromecast system. Just finished "Time Out" and started "Time Further Out" by the time I saw this thread. Maybe I'll go to his earlier works after I finish this album.

Brubeck was my introduction to jazz and is my typical go-to if I feel like listening to jazz. I've discovered my preference for west coast jazz over other styles, though I do appreciate the others as well.