By E. J. Dionne

Dave Brubeck: A Love Affair

December 10, 2012 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad 7 Comments A+ / A-
Dave Brubeck: A Love Affair

WASHINGTON — It was a conversation representative of the era: Somewhere around 1969 or 1970, my dear, conservative Uncle Ray asked his son and me why we liked music by Jimi Hendrix and the Doors but we never listened to Dave Brubeck.

Uncle Ray never budged an inch on politics, but he was not doctrinaire about music. Eventually, he came to like at least a few songs by the Doors. And it saddens me that I never got to tell him how much Brubeck’s music would one day mean to me.

Brubeck, who died last week one day short of his 92nd birthday, wasn’t my first love in jazz, yet I have come to see him as a genius whose music gets more interesting as it’s heard again and again. I have a hunch that my own discovery of the power of jazz — my awakening came courtesy of Miles Davis in his “Kind of Blue” and “Seven Steps to Heaven” period — parallels the experience of so many who have come under its spell. It’s the exceptional American music that we will keep coming back to.

“Kind of Blue” led inevitably to an engagement with Miles’ brilliant collaborators: John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams. They are among the architects of our distinctly American contribution to music.

Yet that “distinctly American” idea points to something odd about the recent history of jazz that my uncle seemed to understand: For a long period into the mid-1970s, rock pushed American jazz far into the background. Jazz continued to win a wide following in Europe and Japan, but young Americans largely ignored it.

I didn’t pay much attention to jazz until I was a grad student in Britain. My friend Paul Taylor (later an editor and columnist at Reuters) took me one cold, foggy night to a small pub on the North Sea in a village called Seahouses, near his hometown of Newcastle, to hear a jazz band led by one of his friends. I was entranced. Later, my high school friend Jack Risko introduced me to “Kind of Blue,” and to Bill Evans’ work. I was hooked.

At that time, American jazz musicians faced a kind of exile. The celebrated tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon — he became well-known thanks to the 1986 film “Round Midnight” — left the U.S. in the early 1960s and spent some 15 years in Europe, where he said he found more love for jazz and less racism. He returned to the United States in 1976. His session at New York’s Village Vanguard was dubbed his “Homecoming,” and was released under that name as an album.

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  • nobsartist

    My experience with music is similar. My father asked the same questions and always refused to admit the Beatles were great. In fact, he refused to believe that “Something” and “Michele’” were written by the Beatles.

    Bruce Springsteen drove me to jazz. When I first heard him on the radio in 1975 or so, I knew that rock and roll had peaked.

    I guess I am just like my father in a lot of ways. I still cannot stand Bruce Springsteen.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZJ5BBSQIGTUMERPZFALES6HQNY Bill

      I will disagree with you on Springsteen. I have had the good fortune to see he live and his shows are great and long. As for jazz and Dave Brubeck I got to see him perform at the Village Vanguard in NYC about 25 years ago, maybe more. He was wonderful too.

      Randall if you still like New Orleans Jazz you can listen to WWOZ from new Orleans streaming on the internet.

      • nobsartist

        Having grown up in the Detroit area, I have had friends with “garage” bands that would humiliate “springsteen” just like the MC5 used to with various acts at the Grande.

        Anyway, as an example, Bob Seeger, who used to play at my high school dances is at least 100 times better than spingsteen.

        Randall may have heard my old friend John Sinclair on OZ. I used to run into him at jazz fest.

  • Randall Marlowe

    I got hooked on New Orleans Jazz when I about 12. I lived in Central Florida and my window faced Tampa.Late at nite I wouldhook the antena of my old Howard Radio to the skitter screen, at that time made of copper. If there were no storms around I could hear ‘Tail Gate Ramble’ among others. Some times even Sachmo Arstrong would play. While in the Air Force I got introduced to Modern or Progressive Jazz with guys from California. After marrying here in Argentina, my Father in Law introduced me to Classical Music and I love them both. If you play them one after the other You can hear where some Jazz Musicians got some of their inspiration. I also like Modern Tango by Piazzollo and 3 or 4 others. There is n o kind of music that I do not like as all have somethink worth listening to. Like when Ray Charles crossed the line and started recording Country & Western and changed Country Music forever! Jack Marlowe, Buenos Aires

  • Dave_dido

    Jazz music is possibly America’s greatest cultural gift to the world. Dave Brubeck’s album “Time Out”which came out in 1959 was certainly a landmark in the evolution of this art form.The tracks on “Time Out” utilize unusual time signatures.For example, the track “Blue Rondo a la Turk” uses a time of 9/8 which is often found in Turkish music. The best-known piece on the album is “Take Five”, which is written in 5/4 time,ergo the name for the piece. “Take Five”may arguably be the most recognizable jazz melody in the world. The only way to describe it is to say that it is really cool. I mean really cool, daddy-o. You dig? Good-bye, Mr. Brubeck, and thanks,man.Your music will be around for a long time.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/V4O5VTGKNFSZ3H2GCM4OENUXAU Elijah o. Ombongi

    The American Constitution second amendment allowing people to bear and own guns was meant to allow people to protect themselves two hundred years ago when;
    (i) the Police force was not well organised,
    (ii) there was no organised motor transport to bring security agents to scenes of crime,
    (iii) the road network was not well developed as it is today,
    (iv) there were no telephones,
    (v) there were no mobile phones and
    (vi) there was no organised army as it is today.

    Today there are:-
    (i) police officers everywhere,
    (ii) there are vehicles of all types including Ambulances and other Emergency rescue vehicles everywhere
    (iii) the roads network is very well developed,
    (iv) there are telephones everywhere,
    (v) almost everybody in America has a mobile phone,
    (vi) there are marshals, marines, the army, Air force, the navy and other security agencies.

    Everyone’s security is protected by the state and the Federal government. Why do people need to bear and own guns? Guns ownership has become a liability and a risk even to the owners of those guns. These guns are used to kill the same people who own them, they are used to kill the children of the people who own those same guns, and they are used to kill parents by their own children and many other people. There is no justifiable need for individuals to bear and to own guns any more. Congress, the Senate and the President should work together to control and reduce gun ownership. The second a mendment of the Constitution was good for two centuries ago, it is no longer useful in the twenty first (21st ), century. Life does not stand still, so the second amendment can not remain static. It should be changed with the changing of the times. It is time to bring gun ownership to an end. Two hundred years ago the European sttlers feared Africans because of the mistreatment they metted on black people, that is why they wanted to own guns to protect themselves from retaliation from the African slaves they owned and mistreated, those days are long gone. So there is no need for gun ownership. The excuse that they need guns for hunting is not good enough. Hunting of animals with guns and hounds is a cruel sport and should be stopped as well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3AEVYAEPTF5EQAQBKY7B4IUSU EAT THE RICH

    brubeck, what a master, will be loved for as long as music exists. think i’ll take five……

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