December 5, 2012, - 3:16 pm
Longtime readers know that I’m a jazz fan and especially like the work of Dave Brubeck, tastes I learned from my late father who used to take me to many jazz concerts and gave me his CD collection which includes a lot of Brubeck’s work. Brubeck, a tremendous, prolific talent–both a pianist and composer–died today at age 91. Even if you don’t know of Brubeck, you’ve no doubt heard what he’s most famous for, “Take Five,” which he did not write (it’s in the video below), and you probably know his “Charlie Brown” work. Or his “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (also in a video below).
Dave Brubeck, Kennedy Center Honoree, 2009
When I say I’m a fan of his work, it doesn’t include his anti-War stuff to protest Vietnam. I noted that and what he did during World War II when he turned 90. Here’s part of what I said then:
Over his nine decades he’s contributed a lot to American music, for the better (though I definitely don’t agree with his musical protests during the Vietnam War, a noticeable hole in his otherwise positive contributions to America). Brubeck’s sense of rhythm, tempo, and melody–and the ability to arrange them into great sound–is incredible. And he’s a great jazz pianist, in addition. As a composer, he wrote for orchestras and even TV soundtracks, including the “Charlie Brown” specials. . . .
My dad’s favorite jazz musician, above all, was Dave Brubeck, individually, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, as a group. I have a great deal of Brubeck’s music that I inherited from my dad. And my favorite is the very well-known “Take Five,” which Brubeck, himself, did not write. His partner, Paul Desmond, wrote it for the Quartet, and it’s long since become a classic.
In addition to enjoying the sounds of Brubeck and his Quartet, I love his story–a quintessentially American one. Born to a cattle rancher, he became a musical prodigy despite poor eyesight and had such a great ear for music, he could fake his way, even though he could not read the notes on the sheet music. He was drafted during World War II but his musical performance for soldiers was such a hit, he was ordered to form a band, which performed for the U.S. Armed Forces.
The one thing I detest about this great musical talent–and it is a huge black mark–is Brubeck’s protest of the Vietnam War, having written compositions against it and in memory of Vietnam War protesters who were shot on college campuses. That especially bothers me, since Brubeck, himself, got out of truly serving during World War II by playing in his band. Despite his actions during Vietnam, I still love his music. I just wish the boys who served in Vietnam and World War II, while Dave Brubeck played and composed, all got to live as long as he has. As we know, many did not, while protecting his right to compose, play, and protest. I wonder if my late father, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and rightly despised the Vietnam War protesters, was aware of this. I wasn’t, but suspected it and looked it up because we know that most musicians tend to be lefties, especially during the ’60s. It’s not like Brubeck did Jane Fonda-type stuff. Not even close. But still . . . .
Brubeck said he wrote his “Jewish Cantata” a/k/a “The Gates of Justice” because “three Jewish teachers shaped his life – philosopher Irving Goleman, composer Darius Milhaud and Jesus.” But other reports say he wrote it because he was upset over Black-Jewish animosity in the late ’60s. Typical liberal thinking: that a musical composition would overcome Black anti-Semitism against those who, frankly, bent over backwards and gave their lives for Black civil rights: the Jews.
In any event, I have to disregard his politics when appreciating his music. And note that Brubeck was a musical genius, whose great talent and ear are the kind of stuff sadly unrepeated in our society in which the hip hop culture and boy bands now dominate. They don’t make ’em like they used to. And they don’t make Dave Brubecks.
Dave Brubeck, great American talent, Rest In Peace.
Tags: Anti-War, Blue Rondo a la Turk, Charlie Brown, Dave Brubeck, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Dave Brubeck RIP, Jazz, Jewish, Jewish Cantata, Jews, liberal, Take Five, The Gates of Justice, Vietnam