Tetons and the Snake River
Photo by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams

Monday, December 28th, 2009 7:08 PM EST

Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck, (1920-2012) was a recipient of 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, was designated a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress and a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in 1920, Dave was one of the most active and popular musicians in the music world. In a career spanning more than six decades, his introduction of odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and distinctive harmonies made him one of the defining voices of jazz. Born in California, Brubeck started studying piano at the age of four with his mother, a classical pianist. His family then moved to a cattle ranch, where he worked as a cowboy, and he entered the College of the Pacific intending to become a veterinarian. Playing in local bands, he became increasingly involved in jazz and decided to switch his major to music. He served in the Army under General Patton, where he led an integrated GI jazz band, and after his discharge, he studied composition with French composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to incorporate jazz in his compositions. In 1949, Brubeck formed an award-winning trio, and two years later, he established the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, a historic collaboration that lasted 17 years. This Quartet toured campuses and clubs across the country, appearing with such artists as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan. Brubeck's style of music was causing such a stir that In 1954 his portrait appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. The Quartet made its first international tour in 1958, with performances in Poland, India, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, East and West Pakistan. The following year, the historic 1959 recoding, "Time Out", featuring "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Take Five," was released. It became the quartet's signature work and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.. After the original Brubeck Quartet disbanded in 1967, Brubeck performed in the 70s with his sons, and led a group with Gerry Mulligan, Jack Six and Alan Dawson. Along with his son, Chris, drummer Randy Jones and clarinetist Bill Smith he performed in Moscow at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit.  He later continued to tour and record with the long-time members of his last quartet -- Bobby Militello, Randy Jones and Michael Moore. Brubeck's compositional oeuvre extends far beyond the Quartet, however. In 1960, he composed Points on Jazz for the American Ballet Theatre; in 1962, he wrote a musical theater piece, "The Real Ambassadors", starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae; and "Elementals", written for jazz combo and orchestra, that was choreographed by Lar Lubovitch in 2005. Other major works include his mass "To Hope! A Celebration", that has been performed throughout the English speaking world and in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. He wrote a string quartet, several oratorios and works for chorus and orchestra, ballet suites and chamber music in both jazz and classical styles.  Brubeck received innumerable accolades. In 1994, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts, and in 2008 he became the first recipient of the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy. Internationally, he was honored by the Austrian, French and Italian governments, and he holds honorary degrees from universities around the world. Other awards include a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Smithsonian Medal and induction into the California Hall of Fame.  In addition to the accolades received as a jazz artist, he was also inducted into the American Classical Hall of Fame.