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Vale jazz great Dave Brubeck

Posted by: 2UE | 6 December, 2012 - 8:03 AM
Tributes flow for Jazz legend Dave Brubeck

Jazz pianist and one of the greatest jazz composers Dave Brubeck, whose experiments in rhythm and style helped win millions of new jazz fans around the world, has died of heart failure, he was 91.


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Brubeck won a slew of awards over the course of a career that spanned more than six decades. He was still playing as recently as last year.

Brubeck played at the White House for presidents and visiting dignitaries, and was designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

Brubeck's 1959 album Time Out became the first million-selling jazz record of the modern era, as songs Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk defied the indifference of critics to become classics in the genre.

Brubeck's success cemented his reputation as one of the great popularisers in the history of jazz, after years of nudging the music into mainstream culture by relentlessly performing on university campuses.

His Dave Brubeck Quartet also toured the world on behalf of the United States government, becoming so popular in Europe and Asia that it was said that when Washington needed to fix up damage somewhere, they sent in Brubeck.

According to Brubeck's website, highlights of his career include the premier of his composition Upon this Rock for then Pope John Paul II's visit to San Francisco in 1987.

His accolades included receiving the National Medal of Arts from then president Bill Clinton in 1994; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He held numerous honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Britain and Germany.

Over the course of his career he also experimented with integrating jazz into classical forms. In 1959 his quartet played and recorded with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, and a year later he composed Points on Jazz for the American Ballet Theatre.

After nearly becoming paralysed in a 1951 swimming accident, Brubeck assembled his first quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond and built up a new and young audience by relentlessly touring universities at the suggestion of Brubeck's wife Iola.

Jazz Goes to College in 1954 sold more than 100,000 copies and led to Brubeck becoming the first jazz musician ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

The choice of a relatively unknown white musician over a black star like Duke Ellington sparked the ire of some colleagues and critics, many of whom felt his offbeat music didn't swing the way jazz should.

But it also made him a household name and paved the way for the success of Time Out, which used rhythms unusual to jazz that Brubeck had heard in his travels around the globe.

Fuelled by pioneering drummer Joe Morello, the album hit the top of both the jazz and popular music charts. The group sold millions of records before disbanding in 1967.

Take Five, written by Desmond, remains the quartet's best known piece. Brubeck's own compositions In Your Own Sweet Way and The Duke have become staples of the jazz repertoire. (AFP)

 

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