Dave Brubeck, c. 1957.
Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.
Born December 6, 1920, in Concord, CA
Dave Brubeck “plays ... like where the blues was born,” said stride legend Willie “the Lion” Smith. “You could put [his music] on at anybody’s house, and they’d dance all night.” The California-born pianist would always be associated the laid-back cool of West Coast jazz, but few would play with as much fire. The son of a cattle rancher, Brubeck grew up tapping out what would become his trademark polyrhythms and odd meters to the clip-clop of a trotting horse. He studied with composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged the young pianist’s exploration of jazz and modern European music, and after leading one of the first interracial army bands in World War II, Brubeck returned to California to form his own wildly popular quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1951. Their performances, which pitted Brubeck’s aggressive style against Desmond’s light, fluid tone, broadened jazz’s reach as the work of few artists had, garnering fans young and old, black and white, at college campuses, concert halls, and night clubs across the country.
Learn more: www.pbs.org/brubeck
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