David Warren Brubeck, mostly known by his stage name “Dave” Brubeck, was an American Jazz Pianist and Composer. He is known for being one of the most important contributors to the cool jazz genre and for his collaborations with fellow artist Paul Desmond.
Dave Brubeck was born in Concord, California on December 6, 1920. Brubeck drew most of his early music influence from his mother, who had studied the piano under the famous English Pianist Myra Hess. His ability could be gauged by the fact that he progressed through those lessons without having to read music, as his eyesight was weak. Brubeck never intended to be musician, however, when he was admitted to the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, his zoology teacher urged him to join the conservatory there, stating that “your mind’s not here, it’s across the lawn in the conservatory”. Brubeck was almost expelled when his teachers discovered that he could not read music, however, he was allowed to stay because of his wonderful talent, and on the condition that would not teach the piano after his graduation in 1942.
When Brubeck was drafted in the United States Army in 1942, he played the piano at a Red Cross show, after which he was relieved from Combat Duty and was allowed to form a band. This was where Brubeck met the legendary Arnold Schoenberg, who was the pioneer of the twelve tone technique. Schoenberg gave two lessons to the young Brubeck. Brubeck, however, did not seem to appreciate the twelve tone technique as much during his early years, and therefore he chose to discontinue his lessons with Schoenberg.
While on duty with the army, Brubeck met his future collaborator Paul Desmond. His first collaboration with him was for the Dave Brubeck Octet, which Brubeck formed in 1951. The Octet rose to prominence in a relatively short amount of time. Their first two recordings were released in 1953 and were titled “Jazz at Oberlin” and “Jazz at the College of the Pacific”. Their third recording was released by Columbia Records in 1954, and was titled “Jazz goes to College”.
In 1954, Brubeck was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. However, he thought that the honor should have been given to his jazz counterpart Duke Ellington. Duke went on to receive the honor in 1956, which was in response to one to his performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956. Brubeck and Ellington were two of the four jazz musicians to have been honored by Time Magazine.
In 1959, the Brubeck Quartet released their album titled “Time Out”, which was named interestingly so as each of the songs on the album were recorded in unconventional time signatures such as 9/8 and 5/4. The album was the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. The Quartet would follow their success with similar albums titled “Time Further Out: Miro Reflections (1961)”, “Time in Outer Space (1962)”, “Time Changes (1963)” and “Time In (1963)”.
Brubeck also wrote many orchestral compositions, of these, his most popular was “The Light in the Wilderness”, which premiered in 1968. He also wrote the famous cantata “The Gates of Justice” in 1969.
Dave Brubeck died on December 5, 2012 due to heart failure in Norwalk, Connecticut.