DAVE BRUBECK

The extended playing record Time Out was recorded on 14 December 1959. The company Columbia with which Dave signed a contract by which he was to release two albums a year, was quite skeptical about Time Out. Even such brilliant producers as Teo Macero are sometimes mistaken (Macero was in charge of recording Time Out). Unusual rhythms of the album discomforted the managers of Columbia. They were used to the classical 4x4 jazz pulse, whereas here they were hearing 9x8, 5x4 and 6x4… How could anyone dance to this?

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But when Time Out became the first jazz album whose over million copies were sold, the managers fell in love with the exotic rhythm of the record. Dave brought them back from Istanbul where his quartet went on a tour organized by the State Department. That was the famous ‘cultural exchange’.

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Three years prior to the recording of Time Out, the old Brubeck quarter ceased to exist. Percussionist Joe Dodge who was sick and tired of being “on the road”, as jazz players say, meaning, to tour constantly, left the quartet, and Joe Morello came instead. In late 1957, double bass player Norman Bates was replaced by the only African American on the quarter Eugene Wright.

Dave, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, and Gene Wright had no idea that in a few years they will be referred to as ‘Brubeck’s classical quartet.’ But Time Out turned out to be such a giant hit that for the first time in the history of jazz, Columbia released a jazz forty-five. One side featured Take Five and the other one Blue Rondo à la Turk.

Dave was indeed a cowboy in his youth. His father Howard “Pete” Brubeck was a farmer and a many-time champion of lasso throwing. His father, Dave’s grandfather, was also a stock breeding farmer who sent Pete in search of a living at the age of 14. Dave’s mother Bessie was the daughter of the stables owner; her father rented out horses and harness, just like they rent out cars today. Despite being the daughter of a stables owner and the wife of a young cattle breeder, Bessie could afford to go to London before the war to take lesson from the famous teacher and composer Tobias Augustus Matthay. Bessie’s second teacher was Dame Myra Huss. Bessie took Dave’s elder brother Henry with her to London. After returning to California, Bessie Brubeck continued education at a state university in San Jose, then at the University of Idaho and at Berkeley.

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Dave was 12 when his father was offered a job at a 45,000 acre giant ranch near Iron City owned by the rich Moffat family. And this was all-American: Bessie took one simple piano and two concert grand-pianos to their new family home at the Arroyo Seco ranch. All three sons had already been pianists. She did not let the youngest one throw a lasso, so that he wouldn’t injure his fingers. This is what they had talked about three years prior.

Dave Brubeck had a hundred times more problems than his brothers. Howard became a prominent composer and teacher. But Dave did not know what to chose, either to inherit the ranch from his father or (reason of argument between the father’s and mother’s side of his family) to continue studying music and dive into a career which did not promise any stable income. Similar to his brothers, he played classical music, church music and cowboy songs. As one of his brothers wrote, “our father was phenomenal; he did not demand that we become farmers like him. He would make it clear that we were free to choose who we wanted to be…” Still when the brothers chose music, his father implied that it would be nice for Dave to follow his father’s footsteps.

At the Arroyo Seco ranch, young Dave was in charge of milking cows in the morning and in the evening. He was also supposed to chop wood and take it to the kitchen. The stove which was used to cook food for all employees of the farm was kindled at four in the morning and had to be kept alight until after dinner. He also carried water for the whole farm uphill from the valley. Later Dave would say that wood and water turned him into a tough guy more than bars or dumbbells… In the summer, he would earn a dollar a day for his work and saved all this money. He would also sell apples in Concord and distributed newspapers around the town every morning from the tiny train station.

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His mother did not allow him to listen to the radio. The music she taught had to be listened to live, and not in someone’s performance. He used the money he saved up for the first record. It was Teddy Wilson, which means it was jazz. His mother understood that Dave did not read from paper. His problem was severe strabismus. But he had an ideal ear. He would play anything his mother’s students played.

Still when he was admitted to a college in Stockton, he was still considering becoming a farmer, which is why he ended up majoring in veterinary science. Zoology professor of the Pacific University at Stockton Dr. Arnold once ran into Dave in the hallway and said:

‘Brubeck, your thoughts are not here, not under our roof. They are over there, behind the university lawn, at the conservatory. Would you be so kind as to head there? Don’t be wasting my time or yours for that matter…’

The clan of Dave Brubeck’s admirers was formed before the release of the triumphal Time Out. The pianist’s wife (veterinary science major runaway Brubeck met Ayola Whitlock at the conservatory; Professor Arnold was two times right!), his wife, whom he called Olie, not Ayola, sent over one hundred letters to American universities offering to organize he husband’s combo tour around university campuses. The idea was successfully implemented, and for Brubeck’s jazz players this was winning the place in the sun. Biographers note Dave’s certain psycho rigidness. He was extremely stubborn, and often this was to his benefit. He was also a man of principle. When the dean of a university where the combo was to be played stated he was against the presence of a Black jazz player on stage, meaning the double bass player Eugene Wright, Dave Brubeck refused to perform altogether. Similarly he refused to visit the South African Union with a concert as a form of protest against the policy of apartheid.

In 1942, he received the diploma of the Pacific College and was instantly drafted in the army. For the first two years, he played in the regimental orchestra of Camp Haan in Southern California, then went through an accelerated course of a young fighter in Texas and landed near Metz, in eastern France. He was never meant to participate in the Battle of Ardennes, but was twice on the front line with an orchestra.

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It is impossible to precisely categorize Dave Brubeck. Yes, he belongs to the Third Movement! Yes, he is one of the leading masters of jazz of the West Coast! Yes, he is the author of works of contemporary classical music. All in all, Brubeck wrote an oratory, four cantatas, mass music and two ballets. He wrote not just religious, but also social music. He wrote the cantata “Gate of Justice” about the fate of African Americans and Jews in the United States and the cantata “Fallen Truth” about the treatment of protesting students of the University of Kent who were later killed.

Brubeck played at the summit of Reagan and Gorbachev in 1988. He wrote the music for the papal visit to San Francisco in 1987. Dave played for eight presidents of the US: from Kennedy to Clinton. His children became jazz players. He received all possible and impossible awards in the field of music arts and culture in the US and abroad.

Brubeck once said: ‘I believe in jazz because a person’s uniqueness stems from the rhythm of their heart. Everywhere in the world it is the same rhythm. You are born with it and it is the last thing you hear…’

He knew that by that, he also meant himself.

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Брубек как-то сказал: “Я верю в джаз потому, что уникальность человека исходит из ритма, в котором живет его сердце. Повсюду в мире – это один и тот же ритм. Ты с этим рождаешься и это последнее, что ты слышишь…”

Он знал, что говорит и о себе.

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Dmitry Savitsky
Radio Svoboda