The Music of Dave Brubeck

Written by on September 18, 2015

Dave Brubeck in 1954 (Photo: Carl van Vechten)

On YouTube, Jazz at Lincoln Center just posted a full concert video of its program The Life and Music of Dave Brubeck, which you can see here, or watch below:

The concert offered fresh big band arrangements of classic pieces associated with Brubeck. Earlier, we also created a companion set of videos in which a Jazz quartet performed and discussed great music of the Brubeck Quartet. Find the full playlist here.

Want to learn more? A great piece to start with is “Take Five” – it was composed by Paul Desmond, and became a featured piece for the quartet to give the drummer, Joe Morello, a feature solo. The quartet could not have predicted the pop chart success the piece (and the album it’s featured on, Time Out) would achieve, particularly given that it is in 5/4 time, unusual for Jazz or for pop.

In this Jazz Academy video, Eli Yamin and his quartet take a look at what made the piece so successful, in particular highlighting how the Brubeck Quartet struck a perfect blend of the familiar with the novel.

Watch through this video, then check out how the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra developed an expanded arrangement for big band here:

Other interesting works from Time Out include “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” which was named for its use of the Turkish aksak rhythm. The quartet discusses the piece here:

(if you want to watch the JLCO’s performance of the piece, click here to get to the correct section of the full show)

Another wonderful piece featured in the performance is “The Duke,” composed by Brubeck in honor of Duke Ellington, but also dedicated to Brubeck’s classical composition instructor Darius Milhaud. The piece, while memorable and hummable, has a very unusual melody, in which its melody is derived from all twelve-tones in an octave. For more on that, Eli Yamin explains:

(the JLCO performance can be found by clicking here)

There are many more videos to check out in the Brubeck series, and we invite you to watch all of them. We also invite you to watch the full concert footage to get a fuller sense of the range of Brubeck’s compositions and genius, and also to hear how the JLCO approached arranging this music for big band!