I had almost decided I would never again be inspired to write anything (except for money). But some subjects stand up and insist.
Jazz pianist and (more important, I think) group leader Dave Brubeck passed over this week at the age of 91.
He still recorded until recently, and those discs I know are highly satisfying. Brubeck wasn't an extraordinarily virtuosic pianist, but he seemed to be the cause of greatness in others. He had superb judgment about musicians he collaborated with -- his groups were more than a sum-of-parts. Not only the best-known player, alto sax artist Paul Desmond, but less celebrated names seemed to have an instinctive rapport with Brubeck. When you can get that from people as individualistic as jazz musicians, you have accomplished something.
Brubeck began jazz composing in 1945, in the army in occupied Germany. His career took off during what was by any reckoning a good time for America ... another reason I will miss him, I suppose. As we approach the Abyss (not the "fiscal cliff," but a political, cultural, and moral sinkhole of darkness), Brubeck reminds us of what it was like to live in a time of alluring, not fearful, prospects.