Dave Brubeck has become a jazz icon. His latest Telarc recording, Indian Summer, released in August 2007, features a mix of timeless standards along with four of his most contemporary (and complex) compositions. In many ways, these sixteen songs tell the story of the legendary pianist and composer’s life.
The public’s first awareness associated Brubeck with the intricate, lightly swinging sound known as West Coast Cool. His distinctive harmonic approach and daring improvisations generated excitement with both critics and fans. His group won both the Critics Poll and the Readers Poll the same year in DownBeat magazine. The Dave Brubeck Quartet became the sound that identified an era. It was they who started the wave of popularity of jazz on college campuses in the fifties. Concurrently, they were playing the leading jazz clubs, and touring with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and other musicians of the bop era. The Dave Brubeck Quartet won the first jazz poll conducted by a black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier. By 1954, his picture had appeared on the cover of Time magazine along with a feature story heralding the rebirth of jazz. In 1960, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello, released their first experiment in odd-metered rhythms. The album, Time Out, and its singles, "Take Five” and "Blue Rondo a la Turk,” became the first in modern jazz to "go gold.”
A milestone in Brubeck’s career was his appearance in 1959 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein. After three performances, they recorded Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra, a piece composed by Dave's brother, Howard. A pioneer in combining jazz with symphony orchestras, Brubeck continued to appear as composer-performer in concerts of his choral compositions and as soloist with orchestras. New Wine, a concert with the Montreal Jazz Festival Orchestra, was recorded and released by MusicMasters. The London Symphony Orchestra honored his fifty-plus years as a jazz performer with an all-Brubeck program performed by Stéphane Grappelli, four Brubeck sons, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
When Pope John Paul II visited the United States in 1987, Brubeck composed special music and participated in its performance at the Papal Mass in Candlestick Park, San Francisco. In his long career, Dave Brubeck has performed for British royalty, a pope, kings, presidents and heads of state. The Dave Brubeck Quartet toured the U. S., Europe, Canada and Japan with the Murray Louis Dance Co., a unique collaboration of America's indigenous art forms – jazz and modern dance. World tours, including several for the State Department in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, have made jazzman Dave Brubeck one of America's foremost good-will ambassadors. The Quartet's repertoire has been influenced by the ethnic music they have heard on their travels.
Brubeck was born in Concord, California, on December 6, 1920. He was the third son of Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck, a music teacher and pianist, and Howard "Pete” Brubeck, a cattle rancher. Dave went to the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, California, as a pre-med student with the aim of becoming a veterinarian, but soon changed his major to music. Upon graduation in 1942, he entered the armed services where he served under Patton in the European theater of military operations. Upon his discharge in 1946, Dave returned from Europe to study composition with the famous French composer, Darius Milhaud. With encouragement from Milhaud, Brubeck began composing and performing with an octet, which included Paul Desmond, Cal Tjader and Bill Smith. The Dave Brubeck Trio, with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, won both the DownBeat and Metronome awards for Best New Instrumental Group.
Following a near fatal swimming accident which incapacitated him for several months, Brubeck organized a quartet with his old friend, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. They were an inseparable team from 1951 to 1968, selling millions of records and winning dozens of jazz polls. After the original quartet disbanded, Dave Brubeck toured and recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Alan Dawson and Jack Six; and for two years led an all-Brubeck Quartet with his sons, Darius, Dan and Chris.
Over his long career, Brubeck has received many honors. He was inducted into the first Playboy Jazz Hall of Fame, along with Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. He was one of the first musicians to have a star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University and holds six honorary doctorate degrees. In 1987, he received the Connecticut Arts Award, and was honored in 1988 at the American Eagle Awards presented by the National Music Council. In 1989, he was inducted into the Pantheon of the Arts at University of the Pacific, and was cited by the French Government for his contribution to the arts. In April of 1990, Fairfield University honored him with the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award. In 1992, he was honored by the Connecticut Bar Association and Simon's Rock College for distinguished service. He also received the BMI Jazz Pioneer Award and was commended by that organization for his "long and outstanding contributions to the world of jazz.” And in 1994 Mr. Brubeck was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton.
Brubeck first appeared on Telarc in 1988 as a guest artist on Big Band Hit Parade. Fortunately for Telarc, Brubeck brought his own group to the label in 1994 and released Late Night Brubeck – Live from the Blue Note. 1999 saw the release of his 40th Anniversary Tour of the U.K. recording, and One Alone, an exciting solo project, came out in the summer of 2000.
In early 2001, Telarc released Double Live from the USA and UK, a 2-for-1 CD that combines live sets from both sides of the Atlantic, one recorded during Brubeck’s recent tour of the United Kingdom and the other from the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Later that same year, he released The Crossing, an album that reflects the artist’s infatuation with the mosaic of musical and cultural influences on the jazz tradition.
Park Avenue South, released in 2003, was the second installment in Telarc’s Live at Starbucks series. The album was recorded in an intimate evening session in a Starbuck’s coffeehouse in Manhattan in the summer of 2002.
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Telarc released Private Brubeck Remembers in 2004. The album is a collection of solo piano renditions of some of the most popular and poignant songs of the World War II era. Private Brubeck Remembers also includes a limited edition bonus CD featuring an interview between Brubeck and former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite.
Brubeck celebrated his 85th birthday with the May 2005 release of London Flat, London Sharp. This ten-track set of mostly originals features the current version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Bobby Militello on alto saxophone and flute, Michael Moore on bass and Randy Jones on drums.
In March, 2007, Brubeck was officially designated a Living Legend of Jazz at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center.
One of the film world’s biggest supporters of jazz, Clint Eastwood – who directed the 1988 Charlie Parker movie, Bird, and composed the music for his films Flags of Our Fathers and Mystic River – is taking the lead role in producing a new documentary about Brubeck’s life. Director Bruce Ricker, who made a well-regarded film about jazz great Thelonious Monk, will trace Brubeck’s career from his youth on a California ranch to his worldwide renown as a musician and proponent of human rights.