Incomparable Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck died of a heart attack yesterday, one day shy of his 92nd birthday today. He died on the way to a cardiologist appointment. It’s hard to argue with the loss of a life at 90, but the Jazz universe will miss Dave Brubeck’s intense energy and dedication to cause because he brought mainstream popularity to chunky and abruptly pleasing music.
When you think of Dave Brubeck’s biggest mark on music, you immediately recall the atonality of “Take Five” — written by alto saxophonist, and chronic heroin addict, Paul Desmond — as the swing and irregular beat takes over your body:
“Take Five” is also a great, but fun, challenge to play on the guitar. As well, once you hear “Take Five” you sing it in your head for the rest of your day, and it replays within your heart for the rest of your life.
Dave Brubeck was a good man who belonged to us during a great time of social turmoil:
Genial as Mr. Brubeck could seem, he had strong convictions. In the 1950s he had to stand up to college deans who asked him not to perform with a racially mixed band (his bassist, Gene Wright, was black). He also refused to tour in South Africa in 1958 when asked to sign a contract stipulating that his band would be all white. With his wife as lyricist, he wrote “The Real Ambassadors,” a jazz musical that dealt with race relations. With a cast that included Louis Armstrong, it was released on LP in 1962 but staged only once, at that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival.
The measure of a good man is marked by the length of moral deeds he leaves trailing behind him — a grand path of function and pain and of overcoming overwhelming odds to do the right thing in life.
Dave Brubeck led a long and delightful life, and he leaves us a bright and proper pathway into the future by lighting our way in the distance of our dark times.