Back in 1958 Dave Brubeck broke with the bop tradition and dropped a tune featuring alto player Paul Desmond entitled ‘Take 5’. Today, that tune remains a jazz anthem. The album that it came from – ‘Time Out – sold over a million copies and it took his music around the globe. Despite his popularity the powers that be in the racist southern states of America refused to play host to his mixed race band and as a result Brubeck cancelled 23 dates of the proposed tour. Throughout the Sixties and the rest of his life the pianist remained a staunch supporter of the struggle for civil rights. Ironically, during the same era he was also chosen by the US State Department to engage in the war against communism by carrying the jazz message behind the “Iron Curtain”.
The above shot features a young Brubeck in the company of Cal Tjader – another jazz musician who was also destined to extend the jazz repertoire by engaging with other musical traditions – and I’ll leave the last word on the pianist, who passed away one day shy of of his 92 birthday, to President Barack Obama: “You can’t understand America without understanding Jazz. And you can understand jazz without understanding Dave Brubeck.”
Dave Brubeck RIP: 06.12.1920 – 05.12.2012