Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 - December 5, 2012) was a highly acclaimed jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader who made a splash on the Pop/Rock charts during the early 1960s. He was musically innovative, employing unusual time signatures and tonalities not typically used in pop or jazz. He is best known for the breezy and sophisticated instrumental jazz standard, "Take Five" (1961), which derived its name from being played in 5/4 time.
Born in Concord, California into a musical family and raised in Ione, Brubeck studied piano as a child with his mother, a classically trained pianist, and later enrolled at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, originally intending to study veterinary science before switching his major to music. After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served in Europe during World War II. He was spared from combat service after giving a performance at a Red Cross show for the troops where he became such a big hit that he was ordered to form a band. Once his military service was complete, he returned to California in 1946 to graduate school at Mills College in Oakland where he studied under famed French composer Darius Milhaud.
In 1951, he formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond (November 25, 1924 - May 30, 1977) on alto saxophone, Bob Bates (September 1, 1923 - September 13, 1981) on double bass, and Joe Dodge (February 9, 1922 - August 18, 2004) on drums. Joe Morello (July 17, 1928 - March 12, 2011) took over as drummer in 1956, and Eugene Wright (May 29, 1923 - December 30, 2020) as double bassist in 1958. A key proponent of the emerging West Coast cool jazz style, this ensemble was especially popular on college campuses. In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet released "Time Out," the first-ever million-selling jazz LP which remains among this genre's top-selling albums of all time.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet debuted in 1961 with the Desmond-penned "Take Five," which reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart, made the Pop/Rock Top 40, and soon after went gold and became jazz's biggest-ever top seller. Other hits through 1963 include "Unsquare Dance" (1961) and "Bossa Nova U.S.A." (1963), the latter of which made the Adult Contemporary Top 20. Brubeck's final charting song came in 1964 with "Nomad" (credited to Louis Armstrong & Dave Brubeck).
The Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded in 1967, reuniting once in 1976 for its 25th anniversary. A prolific composer, Dave Brubeck wrote music for operas, ballet, and TV, and he toured and performed actively through 2009. His numerous honors and accolades included a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and being named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2009. "Take Five" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996 and has been featured in many film and TV soundtracks over the years.
- For more info about Dave Brubeck's life and career, visit davebrubeck.com.
- The BBC remembers jazz great Dave Brubeck.
- The New York Times remembers Dave Brubeck Quartet members Paul Desmond and Joe Morello.
- The Guardian remembers Dave Brubeck Quartet bassist Eugene Wright.
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Dave Brubeck Quartet
- Take Five 1961
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