Dave Brubeck: A Class Act

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Credit: TIMM SCHAMBERGER/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: TIMM SCHAMBERGER/AFP/Getty Images

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In addition to being one of the truly innovative Jazz legends for more than six decades, Dave Brubeck spent much of his 92 years in a lifelong effort to make the world a better place. He donated to and created many different charities, and was a tireless soldier in the fight for civil rights. Ironically, I had just broken out a Brubeck box set last night to listen to.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet was formed after a near fatal car crash in 1951. After much publicity in the late 1950’s from Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine, Brubeck released what would become the very first million selling Jazz album, Time out, in 1959.

Brubeck’s two signature songs “Blue Rondo a La Turk” and the pioneering “Take Five” highlighted this great release. Both songs still sound as hot and fresh as they did over 50 years ago. I still play both of these songs quite often at Spaghettini during The Wave Sunday Brunch.

The brilliant alto sax performance on “Take Five” was performed by longtime member of the quartet, Paul Desmond, who also wrote the masterpiece. Paul once said he came up with the unusual syncopation of the tune while playing a slot machine at the legendary Mapes Hotel in Reno.

Radio stations didn’t want to play “Take Five'”back in 1959. Brubeck and Desmond were so rapidly becoming pioneers in a strong new West Coast Jazz movement, radio was forced to play the song a full two years later in 1961. This is when the very young Bill Dudley first heard it.

My mother was a  huge fan of both Brubeck and Desmond, and used to see them quite often at The Blackhawk, and many other great Jazz venues in San Francisco. I am very envious, as she  saw the classic lineup of Brubeck on piano, Desmond on sax, Joe Morello (drums) and Eugene Wright (bass).

I was much too young to see them in person, but “Take Five” became the very first 45 record I ever bought with my own allowance. I bought it at Capwell’s department store in Oakland for 69 cents. One of the best investments I ever made.

I will play it along with Brubeck’s timeless “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” this Sunday at Spaghettini. Please join us.

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