Sunday, April 26, 2009

Red Hot and Cool

While he never intended to become a musician, having other family members who were professionals, Dave Brubeck found his way to a keyboard, and we're all lucky that he did.

His service in Patton's Third Army got sidetracked when he played piano at a Red Cross show, and the Army ordered him to form a little jazz band.

Dave, being Dave, decided that there was nothing wrong with an integrated band, and launched "The Wolfpack" in 1942, one of the first multi-racial bands ever to represent the United States Amry. Later in his career, late 50s-early 60s, his views on racial issues and human rights caused him to cancel gigs with rednecks who didn't care much for his black bass player Eugene Wright. Dave didn't care, and Wright proved himself to be a seminal jazz bassist who has played with some of the biggest names ever. Eugene will be 89 in June.

Some would say that THE defining moment in Dave's career came when he met, also in the army, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. It was certainly a pivotal point in Brubeck's progress as a jazz pianist, however the addition of Joey Morello on drums could also be seen as the equivalent to finding the missing piece to a puzzle.

Together, Brubeck, Desmond, Wright, and Morello made up the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Brubeck, now 88, has always had a thing for funky time signatures, and the classic, Take 5, written by Desmond, explores the weird 5/4 signature like no other song in the history of music. It's from the album Time Out, released in 1959. The album shot to the top, and made stars of Brubeck and Desmond., but as a half-assed musician myself, I would say that Morello's job on the song is about as challenging a piece of music as a drummer can attempt. Joey killed it. Joey is 80 now.

Brubeck's best music, from a jazz standpoint, came when he was partnered with the extraordinarily talented Desmond. As with many musical partnerships, Dave and Paul used to piss on each other's shows from time to time.

I've read that Paul lost days of sleep, agonizing over how to play a sax solo in 5/4, but at Brubeck's urging continued his exploration until he hit what on what has become one of the most recognized riffs in jazz history.

Tall order, while Brubeck is doing that on the keys, Wright is killing on the standup, and Morello is popping like a firecracker. Paul Desmond passed away in 1977, and I'll always consider Take 5 to be his gift to music. He had loads of great tunes, but for me....Take 5 is the quintessential Paul Desmond.

Dave Brubeck has gone on to write ballets, broadway scores, and other styles of music that included eclectic groups like the London Symphony. Always the explorer, Brubeck.

Dave will be 89 this coming December.

Anytime you feel like you're having a bad day, or a good day for that matter, nothing beats a little Brubeck, Desmond, Wright and Morello.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet playing Take 5.

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