RIP Dave Brubeck, Jazz Legend, 91

From the Chicago Tribune:

Dave Brubeck, a jazz musician who attained pop-star acclaim with recordings such as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” died Wednesday morning at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., said his longtime manager-producer-conductor Russell Gloyd.

Brubeck was one day short of his 92nd birthday. He died of heart failure, en route to “a regular treatment with his cardiologist,” said Gloyd.

Throughout his career, Brubeck defied conventions long imposed on jazz musicians. The tricky meters he played in “Take Five” and other works transcended standard conceptions of swing rhythm.

Dave Brubeck was my intro to Jazz.  My mom and dad had an extensive collection of his LPs and they would put them on the stereo when my sisters and I wanted to listen to American Top 40.  God, I hated that, but I’d give my left pinky finger to have those LPs and that stereo again.

Take Five

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Blue Rondo A La Turk

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Open Thread

62 replies
  1. 1
    Bruce S says:

    Check out the doc Clint Eastwood produced on Brubeck:

    Very nice piece – a lovely man and a life very well lived. (It’s stuff like this that keeps me forgiving Clint for his totally dumbass politics.)

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    Funny thing… I was just in a music store and was drawn to a used Dave Brubeck cd… even though I knew I had it, just didn’t know where it was. Talked myself out of it.

    Couldn’t get his tunes out of my head the rest of the day.

  3. 3
    Brachiator says:

    from various news sites, on Brubeck

    Brubeck, born Dec. 6, 1920, in Concord, Calif., was the son of a cattle rancher. His mother was a classically trained pianist. Although he studied zoology at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, he came to love the music department. While serving in the Army during World War II, Brubeck formed the band the Wolfpack. After the war in the Bay Area he experimented with music groups and styles….
    The seminal album “Time Out,” released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It opens with “Blue Rondo a la Turk” in 9/8 time — nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats…
    In 1988, he played for Mikhail Gorbachev, at a dinner in Moscow that then-President Ronald Reagan hosted for the Soviet leader.
    “I can’t understand Russian, but I can understand body language,” said Brubeck, after seeing the general secretary tapping his foot….
    In an interview for Ken Burns’ PBS miniseries “Jazz,” Brubeck talked about playing for troops with his integrated band, only to return to the U.S. to see his black bandmates refused service in a restaurant in Texas.

    Cool dude, cool music

    An interview with Brubeck on JazzWax

  4. 4
    I am not a kook says:

    Rest in peace Mr. Brubeck. Truly a great original. Too bad I never got to see him live.

  5. 5
    Kip the Wonder Rat says:

    Saw him perform when he was in his 80s. Old guy slowwwly walks/shuffles across the stage, slowwwwly, creakily lowers himself onto the piano bench, and then in a slow, creaky voice introduces the band members for that night. Man, my wife and I thought we had really made a mistake, that though we really respected the guy and enjoyed his music, he was just too old for this stuff, that this evening was going to be long and dull and just a little embarrassing.

    Then he riffed for more than 2 hours solid.

    No breaks, even when other band members broke. No slowing down, no mistakes, just a perfect night of Dave Brubeck in a smallish venue. When they were playing, it was like they were all in their 20s. Such joyful inventiveness, such mastery of their medium. To this day it remains one the best, if not THE best live music I’ve experienced.

    After he was done playing, and after all the shouts and applause, he slowwwwwly, creakily pushed himself up off the bench and slowwwly shuffled off stage.

    Pretty magical.

  6. 6
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    If I click on any of the music links, I won’t get a scrap of work done the rest of the day. However, tonight I will have a good old wallow.

    My boss (who is in his, I dunno, mid- to late 40s) has never heard of Brubeck. He knows a fair amount of music, too, but I was stunned that he didn’t recognize Brubeck’s name, never heard of “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” He’s says it’s because he’s (the boss, that is, not Brubeck) Canadian, but I’m not buying that.

  7. 7
    Epicurus says:

    R.I.P., Mr. Brubeck; you were one of a kind, and will be missed. A truly sad note in his obit; he apparently missed making 92 by one day. Ah, well.

  8. 8
    burnspbesq says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat:

    Had a very similar experience at a Sonny Rollins concert about 18 months ago. Stooped-over old dude walks slowly and with obvious difficulty to center stage and proceeds to blow the roof off the joint.

    Most of Brubeck’s catalog is still in print, including a spectacular-sounding audiophile vinyl reissue of Time Out.

  9. 9
    Dave says:

    When I started taking sax lessons as a kid, my teacher gave me three records (yes, I am old) to listen to so I could get the feel of jazz: Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Sonny Rollins’ Our Man in Jazz and Brubeck’s Time Out.

    This makes me sad.

  10. 10
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Playing live sets pretty much till the end, too.

    If you’re in NYC, go and seek out old jazz musicians that still play regular sets. If you’re in another city and they come to visit, go and see them.

    YouTube has a lot of live recordings from the classic Quartet, which is fantastic; I’ll throw in this recording of ‘Unsquare Dance’, as a reminder of a time when TV would show people dancing along in 7/4 time.

  11. 11
    sharl says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat: A wonderful remembrance; thanks for posting it.

  12. 12
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I saw Dave Brubeck in 1963. Fun concert. GREAT piano, overrated drums. [I probably started a war with that one. :-)]

    I’m glad he came our way. The whole world is richer for it.

  13. 13
    Disco says:

    Sad, very sad day. We’re losing a lot of these original cats.

  14. 14
    KXB says:

    A true artist.

  15. 15
    red dog says:

    Living in Dave’s hometown we have roads and parks named after him…a few more coming up I would think.

  16. 16
    Raven says:

    @Disco: Treme is doing a nice job of featuring the New Orleans greats that are still with us.

  17. 17
    grape_crush says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat: Yeah, was fortunate enough to see Brubeck live later on in his life as well. Had to be helped up on the stage but once he sat down at the piano, those years just lifted.

    And the show I attended was pretty much exactly as you describe. Magical.

  18. 18
    Cassidy says:

    Whatever. Does he have as many youtube hits as Beiber? I don’t think so.

  19. 19
    handsmile says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: , @burnspbesq:

    And speaking “old jazz musicians” who “blow the roof off the joint,” last May I sat in awe listening to Cecil Taylor in two solo performances here in NYC. Not for everyone’s ears, to be sure, but in his 80s that man remains a volcanic force at the piano. Improvisational majesty.

    Never a great fan of Brubeck (my tastes incline to Monk/Powell/Evans from that generation of pianists), but deep respect for his efforts to combat racial prejudice among jazz presenters and for successfully expanding the American audience for this inexhaustible music.

  20. 20
    Schlemizel says:

    the end of “Secondhand Lion”

    “So, [he] really lived?”

    “Oh yeah. [he] REALLY lived!”

  21. 21
    mingo says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat:

    I have to chime in with my old-man-barely-able-to-shuffle-to-the-mike story: Stephane Grappelli, who then proceeded play like a maniac for 2 hours, and dropped 50 years in the process.

    Time Out was the first jazz album I bought (I think as a teenager) – RIP Dave Brubeck

  22. 22
    Xenos says:

    Saw him in concert about twenty years ago, and he was great. But you could not help noticing the absence of Paul Desmond, who was such a critical part of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s sound.

  23. 23
    Opie_jeanne says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: does he know about Maynard Ferguson?

  24. 24
    Paul in KY says:

    @Bruce S: His politics aren’t near as ‘dumb’ as those of a fast food worker who votes Republican.

    The man is a multimillionaire & if you are one of those, there are very logical reasons to vote Republican (IMO).

  25. 25
    handsmile says:

    (FYWP cut me off while typing an ETA to my comment #19, as it seemed a little uncharitable upon re-reading.)

    Dave Brubeck’s passing is indeed sad, but his music remains to delight and inspire. He lived long enough to realize the impact he made and the pleasure his music brought. I imagine he’ll be able to teach the angels a few things about time signatures.

  26. 26
    Jager says:

    Saw Brubeck at the Regatta bar in Cambridge, MA when he was in his early 80’s. Same experience, watching him shed his years.He loved to play.

  27. 27
    Ben Cisco says:

    Sad day.

    My dad was a jazz fan, and I grew up listening to artists from across the spectrum. Brubeck’s “Take Five” was MANDATORY listening for anyone who dropped by the house.

    RIP, Dave. You will be missed.

  28. 28
    Opie_jeanne says:

    @burnspbesq: we had a similar experience at a Bo diddly concert at House of Blues in Anaheim. He had just had an accident in a hotel room and got burned somehow. He shuffled onto the stage, almost apologetic about his condition. He walked to a chair in the cente of the stage and someone brought his guitar to him.

    He proceeded to put on a heck of a show without rising from his chair.

  29. 29
    Ash Can says:

    It’s always a sad day when we lose a true national treasure. RIP, Mr. Brubeck, and many thanks for all you contributed to jazz and to American music in general.

  30. 30
    Feudalism Now! says:

    RIP Dave Brubeck
    I listen to take 5 any time I am doing a house project. It’s the only thing that kept me sane while redoing crown molding. God speed, and safe trip.

  31. 31
    Hoodie says:

    Hearing Brubeck reminds me of my uncle. Pretty straightlaced former AF colonel, complete jazz fanatic up until his death at 87. Built his own tube amps and speaker systems to listen to it.

  32. 32
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Ben Cisco:

    Brubeck’s “Take Five”

    Posted this in the previous thread, and I don’t want to be a dick (again), but that was Paul Desmond’s tune. I have nothing but respect for Brubeck, but I think even he would readily acknowledge authorship.

  33. 33
    Alex S. says:

    R.I.P., Mr. Brubeck. I really enjoyed ‘Time Out’. There’s not much ‘white’ Jazz music that I like, but I like this one.

  34. 34
    JasonF says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: That’s amazing. What I know about jazz could fit in a thimble with room to spare, but even I know Dave Brubeck and Take Five. Tell your boss he’s a philistine!

    (OK, don’t really tell him that. Still …)

  35. 35
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Opie_jeanne: Saw Segovia at Mechanics’ Hall in Worcester near the end of his life. Same thing… old, old man, young, young fingers.

  36. 36
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Dave Brubeck was still alive?!

    I figured he had to be dead because some jackass made a cut time version of “Take Five” a few years ago which plays on the smooth jazz radio station.


  37. 37
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Posted this in the previous thread, and I don’t want to be a dick (again), but that was Paul Desmond’s tune.

    Ah. Is that why the rest of the album is a yawn forest? The more you know.

  38. 38
    SBJules says:

    I saw them live. Good stuff. His sister-inlaw taught at my high school & was the school newspaper adviser. Yes, I wrote for my school paper.

  39. 39
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Well, Desmond also wrote Blue Rondo a la Turk.

  40. 40
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat: Don’t know where you are or when you saw him, but we could have been at the same concert – amazing amount of energy

    @SiubhanDuinne: His being Canadian is a bs excuse – Brubeck regularly played big venues in Toronto over the last 10 years or so (I saw him about 5 years ago)

  41. 41
    Tim I says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat:

    I had a similar experience with Tony Bennett. We saw him at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall shortly after it opened. My ex-wife was a huge fan of his, but I wondered how good an 80 year old singer would do in front of a live audience. I’d heard Sinatra live in his later years and it was disappointing.

    Rose Hall is a fantastic concert space which holds about 1200 people. Tony Bennett came out and did a couple of songs. He was very good. On his third number he mentioned how much he had heard about the Rose Hall acoustics. With that he instructed the stage manager to kill the mic. He proceeded to belt out four songs beautifully without any amplification. It was an amazing performance which repeatedly brought the audience to their feet. Not bad for an old guy

  42. 42
    Original Lee says:

    Towards the end of my father’s life, he was really vague about a lot of stuff, but when I produced the piano part for Blue Rondo a la Turk and had problems duplicating the rhythm, boy, he was able to sit with me very patiently correcting me until I got it just right.

    RIP, Mr. Brubeck.

  43. 43
    IdahoFlaneuse says:

    Back in the late 70’s I attended Towson State University. Hank Levy was the director of the jazz band there. As I understand it Hank was known for the unusual time signatures of his arrangements. Have a few of the band’s albums recorded onto tape.
    Now I have two things to do, convert the albums to disc and to look into Dave Brubeck.

  44. 44
    Interrobang says:

    @Just One More Canuck: Yeah, I was going to say, I am Canadian, and I’ve heard of him. Not heard him, but jazz from 1959 is about 20 years too late for my tastes; I can’t think of anything in the jazz vein that I like that was recorded after 1940, and I tend to flee from stuff from the late 1950s in particular. (Jesus, instrumental jazz…wank, wank, wank.)

    Now if you want to talk about Blanche Calloway, Victoria Spivey, or those type of people, I’m your person.

  45. 45
    Svensker says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    I’ll throw in this recording of ‘Unsquare Dance’, as a reminder of a time when TV would show people dancing along in 7/4 time.

    This tune and Rondo were how I taught my son how to count music when he was little. So much fun!

  46. 46
    burnspbesq says:


    One of the greatest live albums in the history of jazz was recorded at Massey Hall in 1953. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. Ridiculous.

    As luck would have it, I just bought a new vinyl copy of “Time Out” on Sunday. Cueing it up now.

  47. 47
    Elizabelle says:

    What an elegant man.

  48. 48
    burnspbesq says:


    One of the greatest live albums in the history of jazz was recorded at Massey Hall in 1953. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. Ridiculous.

    As luck would have it, I just bought a new vinyl copy of “Time Out” on Sunday. Cueing it up now.

  49. 49
    Elizabelle says:

    What an elegant man.

  50. 50
    techno says:

    I actually got to perform with Brubeck. It was 1970 and he had written a “Jazz Oratorio” Called “A light in the Wilderness.” I was in The University of Minnesota Choir and he was coming to Minneapolis to perform one of the first examples of this work. We worked VERY hard on our parts but to be perfectly honest with you guys, it was pretty weird to count out 42 measures while waiting to sing ten, etc. Finally, Brubeck and company show up for dress rehearsal. Those long pauses were for when he and his band did their thing. Oh My!

    Concert night arrives. Our choir dressed in tuxes and evening gowns for concerts so all my fellow mates looked spectacular. About a half hour before we went on, Brubeck stops by to thank us for all our hard work. The female members damn near swooned—this was one handsome guy to go with his amazing talents. We went out and swatted one out of the park. The audience went nuts—the standing ovation lasted around 20 minutes. Now I am sure that 98% of that ovation was for Brubeck and crew, but it was a LOT of fun to stand on stage and listed to the waves of noise. I have had NO problem understanding why folks go through the suffering it takes to be a good musician after that night.

  51. 51
    canuckistani says:

    @Interrobang: Cool. Not many people know about Cab’s sister. But I did get to see Cab himself at Massey Hall. For someone not as good as his sister, he cooked pretty hot.

    Yeah, we Canadians know our jazz. And I like Brubeck a good deal more than most of the post-popular jazz era.

  52. 52
    burnspbesq says:

    Interesting that the two biggest-selling jazz albums of all time, Time Out and Kind of Blue, were released the same year (and recorded in the same studio).

  53. 53
    Svensker says:


    Wow. Great story. Great memory.

  54. 54
    Prometheus Shrugged says:


    Well, there’s also the great Canadian-born pianist Oscar Peterson.

    Interestingly enough, Brubeck was not very highly regarded in the jazz community itself. Some of that lack of respect was no doubt a matter of professional jealously. Saxophonist Phil Woods called Brubeck’s In your own sweet way–now a great jazz standard–“A case of Brubeck getting lucky”, and I always thought that was unnecessarily vindictive. But it’s true that Brubeck was not, as they say, a “musician’s musician.”

    It goes without saying that any discussion of his relative merits as a musician do not speak to his basic character as a human being. In the end, by anyone’s estimation, he led a full and productive life.

  55. 55
    curmudgeon says:

    White people sure loved Brubeck. Must’ve been those Life and Time magazines. Ask a white guy (especially one over 40) who his favorite jazz artist is, chances are about 80% he’ll say Dave Brubeck. Sorry, but Bill Evans had more soul in 2 or 3 notes than Brubeck did in 20.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Bill says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat: That mirrors my memories of seeing him in Boston. Thinking, “he don’t get around so well”, and them watching him get around the piano very well indeed for several hours.

    Up until 2010 or so, he would do a program of holiday music at a little synagogue outside Philly, for the congregation and some friends. My brother got to see him there a few times.

    I’ll never forget a friend pulling into my driveway, sometime in our mid twenties, he was very excited about some music he had found, and wanted me to hear it. He pushed the cassette into the deck in his car, (which happened to be my old car) and the opening notes of Blue Ronda a la Turk issued forth form the speakers. I looked at him, and said “Dave Brubeck, track one, Time Out, 1959”. He was crushed, he really thought he’d found something original and unique. I told him that he had found exactly that, music that had never been heard before, albeit forty-five years previously. I then told him that I’d been raised on Brubeck, among other things, and knew Time Out by heart.

    I lost a friend today, Karen, too young, to cancer. Then I found out that we’d all lost Dave, and I’ve been pretty sad, mostly about Karen. Dave had a hell of a life, and a long one, in no small way thanks to Paul Desmond, and he was fabulous right up to the end. We should all be so blessed.

    Goodbye, Karen and Dave.

  58. 58
    rikyrah says:

    thank you for the music, Mr. B.


  59. 59
  60. 60

    Was he buried in a perfectly square coffin?

  61. 61
    Death Panel Truck says:

    I was much sadder when Miles died. He was only 65. Brubeck lived a much longer life. Hard to feel too sad for people who die in their friggin’ 90s. My old man was 84 when he went. A few weeks before he passed, he told me, in referring to the length of his life, “I had a good run at ‘er.”

    Dave Brubeck had a good run at ‘er.

  62. 62
    Wally Ballou says:

    @curmudgeon: Fuck off.

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