Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Duke

"The Duke" is Dave Brubeck's greatest composition, and a great tune. Inspired by Ellington and Darius Milhaud, with whom Dave studied briefly, the best version is, as many songs are, by Gil Evans with Miles Davis on, I think, Miles Ahead. (I won't check my vinyl in the garage.)

1. Chord progressions that, on a cheat sheet look arbitrary, sound to the ear organic.
2. Not so much the birth of the cool as the puberty of the cool, "the cool" being more or less the west coast response to bebop.
3. Really fun to play if you can wrap your head and hands around the constantly morphing chord changes.
4. Played in the exact right tempo, it swings hard whether solo piano or quartet or big band.

Though more often than not, Dave's experimentation with polyrhythms and progressive harmonies feuded with both Paul Desmond and what ended up being the legacy of novelty in jazz, and most hardcore (and arrogant!) jazzers would find Dave's music ultimately gimmicky. Understandable, but not necessarily fair.

Album to own: Time out.

Definitely a worthy ambassador of jazz and a tremendous human being. Which is more important we'll still never know.


Isonomist said...

As little as I know about music, growing up listening to Brubeck made it hard to understand what he actually achieved. But the fact that my Dad, the Wagnerian, listened to him of all people speaks volumes.

Michael said...

When I was a kid, WGN used to use Take 5 as the intro music to their Saturday Morning Movie. Cartoons first, and then the movie. I didn't know anything about 5/4 time signatures, but I knew I liked that song. For my entire life, the second I'd hear Joe Morello's drum intro, I'd be transported back in time. It remains one of my favorite songs ever. As soon as I heard the news this week, I sat back and watched Dave, Paul, Eugene, and Joe do Take 5 on Jazz Casual from 1961. They're all incredible. Desmond & Brubeck get the credit, but Morello & Wright were so goddamned solid. What a quartet. Damn I love the YouTube.

Penal-Colony said...
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rundeep said...

I posted to someone that I saw him once live with Bobby McFerrin, must have been the Philly Jazz Festival circa 1989? It remains such a memorable show for me, really. As I told Iso, he greased the crowd by telling us how musical Philly audiences were, because they could find the rhythym in 7/4 time. Way to challenge us Dave. THe playing was ..... ridiculous. (McFerrin was entertaining too, but just not the same. Plus, he lives in the hood so we see him all the time, just not the same.) Speaking of the hood, saw Mose Allison here (like, down the street) about a year ago and he was just amazing for such an elderly dude. No Dave, but pretty freaking good.