Tribute to Dave Brubeck Playlist

One day short of his 92nd birthday, jazz innovator, pianist and composer Dave Brubeck passed away yesterday, December 5. He is known to most for his collaborations with jazz greats like Paul Desmond, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis to name a few; however, he influenced many other musical genres from folk to classical. Here is a playlist of songs from some of the many Brubeck CD’s available at the Central Library.


We crossed the Rhine/ Private Brubeck Remembers

In early 2004, Dave Brubeck reminisced about his days as a soldier during World War II for this two-CD set, playing solo piano interpretations of songs from that era. Brubeck, then recently married and promptly drafted after graduating from the College of the Pacific, almost ended up in combat before getting an opportunity to play with an army band, which caused a music-loving colonel to install the young private as director of the band. His “We Crossed the Rhine” is a tense piece that evokes the still-dangerous conditions as they made their way into

Koto Song/ 1975: The Duets


Although Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond made many rewarding recordings together, this was their only duo album; it was inspired by several duo performances on board a cruise ship. Their magical ESP is evident from start to finish. Brubeck’s lyricism throughout these sessions will surprise critics who label him as “bombastic,” while Desmond, known for his pure dry-toned alto sax, throws a few curves to his longtime fans. The especially adventurous introduction to Brubeck’s oriental blues “Koto Song” opens with Desmond providing percussion by tapping on his instrument’s keys without blowing; the piece then slowly evolves from random-sounding fragments into its haunting


Cultural Exchange/ The Real Ambassadors

In 1961, Dave Brubeck put together a remarkable musical show. Using the talents of Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars, Carmen McRae, the innovative bop vocal group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and his own rhythm section, Brubeck and his wife, lyricist Iola, wrote a largely upbeat play full of anti-racism songs and tunes that celebrated human understanding. Although it had only one live performance (at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival), The Real Ambassadors was recorded for posterity and now, with its reissue on CD, the original 15 selections have been augmented by five more. It is important to listen to this music without prior expectations because Paul Desmond is nowhere to be found, Louis Armstrong does not play that much trumpet here, and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross essentially function as background singers. However Satch and Carmen McRae make for a very potent team, and there are many touching and surprising


An die Musik/ Schubert

This very unusual release features compositions written by Dave Brubeck, Dick Hyman and Roland Hanna for classical musicians. Brubeck’s Quintet Sonata For “An die Musik” is a challenging rhythmically complex sonata inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach, scored for the An die Musik’s unusual instrumentation of oboe, piano, violin, viola and cello. There are many influences in Brubeck’s writing; in addition to Bach, there’s the flavor of the American west-where the composer grew up on a working cattle ranch, Darius Milhaud, under whom Brubeck studied in graduate school, and of course, jazz. Dick Hyman wrote a three part Sonata For Violin & Piano, accompanying violinist Yuval Waldman on this equally intriguing piece. Hyman also adapted “The Minotaur” (a mid-1960s composition he wrote for and performed on an early Moog synthesizer) for violin and piano; this catchy piece combines the rhythms of bossa nova and waltz that proves to be far more effective than its original recording. Roland Hanna’s Sonata For Chamber Trio and Jazz Piano is a four part work, with cello, French Horn and flute accompanying Hanna’s piano. This composition was actually adapted by Hanna from four separate jazz works that he had already written and performed, so he found it relatively easy to re-score them for this new setting. As an added bonus, Hanna and Hyman collaborated in the studio to produce the very attractive Impromptu For Two Pianos, a lively improvisation that proves very rewarding. Highly


The way you look tonight/ Dave Brubeck Quartet

Although a touch underrated, Jazz at Oberlin is one of the early Dave Brubeck classic recordings. The interplay between the pianist-leader and altoist Paul Desmond on “Perdido” borders on the miraculous, and their renditions of “The Way You Look Tonight,” “How High the Moon” and “Stardust” are quite memorable. Brubeck’s piano playing on “These Foolish Things” is so percussive and atonal in one spot as to sound like Cecil Taylor, who would not emerge for another two years. With bassist Ron Crotty and drummer Lloyd Davis giving the Quartet quiet and steady support, Brubeck and Desmond were free to play at their most adventurous. Highly


Summer Song/ Dave Brubeck

It’s not uncommon for anyone to turn toward nostalgia as the years wear on, and at age 86, with nearly 60 years of recording behind him and nearly 50 since he shook up the jazz world with his landmark Time Out album, Dave Brubeck is certainly entitled to look back and take stock of his life. Indian Summer — the phrase itself suggests an acknowledgement of a waning in progress — is something of a companion piece to 2004’s Private Brubeck Remembers. Like that gem, Indian Summer is a solo piano work comprised of Brubeck’s ruminations on standards of the mid-20th century, the period when he was just coming up as an artist and blossoming as a young man. These are reflective, meditative ballads, softly but skillfully played and hinting at melancholy. On time-worn Americana such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “September Song,” “Sweet Lorraine,” and “Spring Is Here,” Brubeck is restrained but soulful, out to prove nothing. It’s not that age has dulled him; Brubeck’s performance is uniformly exquisite, imaginative, and elegant; it’s just not edgy. A small handful of original material nicely complements the standards, adding up to one of the more intimate entries in Brubeck’s enormous


The Duke/ Dave Brubeck

“The Duke,” written by Dave Brubeck in the mid-1950s, was originally to be titled “The Duke Meets Darius Milhaud,” to honor one of the titans of jazz and the French composer with whom Brubeck studied at Mills College following World War II. This upbeat work is unusual in that its bass line goes through a twelve tone row within the first eight bars, which adds to the challenge of performing it. Although Brubeck has proven to be one of the most prolific jazz composers during a large part of his career, this landmark composition has long been a staple in his repertoire and recorded numerous times for various labels by the pianist. The best version may be his solo interpretation, which he recorded himself for his Columbia LP Brubeck Plays Brubeck. It has appealed to a number of other jazz musicians, as it has been recorded by Miles Davis, Teddy Wilson, Bob Wilber, Barney Kessel, Clare Fischer, Ran Blake, Phil Woods, Marian McPartland, George Shearing, Joe Pass and even Steve Allen. It is probably ranks second in popularity among Brubeck’s compositions just after “In Your Own Sweet Way.”


Three to get read/ Dave Brubeck

In 1987 Brubeck, after decades of trying, finally had an opportunity to perform with his Quartet in the Soviet Union. The enthusiastic crowd (many of whom had grown up on Brubeck’s music) clearly inspired the musicians which included clarinetist Bill Smith,  electric bassist Chris Brubeck and drummer Randy Jones. Because of the major impact of both “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” several other valuable compositions which also appeared on Dave Brubeck’s best-selling album Time Out are easily overlooked by critics and casual jazz listeners. “Three to Get Ready” is hardly unfamiliar ground to Brubeck’s fans, as the pianist has repeatedly revisited this happy waltz during numerous concerts in the decades which followed its initial studio recording in 1959. The song, which alternates between three and four, often produces some humorous solos in concert, particularly in Paul Desmond’s quote-filled solo on the CD 25th Anniversary Reunion. Most of the other musicians who have recorded this Brubeck composition haven’t been very well known. It was also recorded by singer Claude Nougaro, who had a hit with it in France under the title “Jazz et Java.”


Take Five/ Paul Desmond

Dave Brubeck’s defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. It was a risky move — Brubeck’s record company wasn’t keen on releasing such an arty project, and many critics initially roasted him for tampering with jazz’s rhythmic foundation. But for once, public taste was more advanced than that of the critics. Buoyed by a hit single in altoist Paul Desmond’s ubiquitous “Take Five,” Time Out became an unexpectedly huge success, and still ranks as one of the most popular jazz albums ever. That’s a testament to Brubeck and Desmond’s abilities as composers, because Time Out is full of challenges both subtle and overt — it’s just that they’re not jarring. Brubeck’s classic “Blue Rondo à la Turk” blends jazz with classical form and Turkish folk rhythms, while “Take Five,” despite its overexposure, really is a masterpiece; listen to how well Desmond’s solo phrasing fits the 5/4 meter, and how much Joe Morello’s drum solo bends time without getting lost. The other selections are richly melodic as well, and even when the meters are even, the group sets up shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints that nod to African and Eastern musics. Some have come to disdain Time Out as its become increasingly synonymous with upscale coffeehouse ambiance, but as someone once said of Shakespeare, it’s really very good in spite of the people who like it. It doesn’t just sound sophisticated — it really is sophisticated music, which lends itself to cerebral appreciation, yet never stops swinging. Countless other musicians built on its pioneering experiments, yet it’s amazingly accessible for all its advanced thinking, a rare feat in any art form. This belongs in even the most rudimentary jazz


It’s a Raggy Waltz/ Dave Brubeck

“It’s a Raggy Waltz” is an unusual item among Dave Brubeck’s vast number of compositions, as he contributed both the music and the lyrics to this song. Debuted in 1961 on the album Time Further Out, this piece isn’t exactly a waltz or a rag but a choppy piece with constantly shifting accents that don’t predictably fall where the listener expects. It had immediate appeal on concert dates, turning up on The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall and his collaboration with singer Carmen McRae (Take Five). He also revisited “It’s a Raggy Waltz” with three of his musical sons on Brother, the Great Spirit Made Us All. Chris Brubeck’s humorous arrangement for a recording session with folk singer Bill Crofut, guitarist Joel Brown and Classical singer Frederica von Stade is particularly memorable. Others who have recorded the song include guitarist Marc Fossett (known for his work with Stephane Grappelli) and pianist Jim

2 Responses to Tribute to Dave Brubeck Playlist

  1. Lynne Page says:

    Yes, Dave Brubeck was great, that’s no jive,
    A musician determined to strive.
    Polytonal, his jazz,
    And his rhythms? Pizzaz!
    But now God has told Dave to “Take Five.”

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