Thursday, December 06, 2012


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.

I haven't had time to read the obits, but probably most will concentrate on his '50s and early '60s best-selling albums (Time Out, Time Further Out, the Carnegie Hall live set, etc.) in which Brubeck and his fellow musicians explored oddball time signatures. It's been a while since I've heard them, but I expect they would retain their fascination today. He continued to produce "out there" albums such as Jazz Impressions of Japan, exploratory without descending into mere quirkiness.

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.

His career had its ups and downs over more than 50 years, but he began a great "Indian summer" period when he signed with the audiophile Telarc label in the '90s. Once again, he gathered top -- if not particularly famous -- talent. Check out, for instance, the knockout playing of altoist Bobby Militello on Late Night Brubeck and London Flat, London Sharp.

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.


Stogie said...

Brubeck reminds us of what it was like to live in a time of alluring, not fearful, prospects.

Very well said! You express it all in a very poignant, single sentence. I will link.

YIH said...

Don't quit blogging altogether. There are things other than politics and immigration that are interesting.
Music, Film, travel, ''and the way we live now'' are worth reading about.
About an earlier post where you mused about applying criminal charges over plane crashes this should give you something to smile about:
Continental Overturns Manslaughter Verdict on Concorde Crash.
Back to topic, seldom was jazz interesting to me. Much of it came off as like hearing the Grateful Dead live, so 'free-form' that it became meaningless noodling.
Brubeck was one of the few exceptions, a solid musical framework that he used as basis for experimentation. It wasn't a matter of ''if I mix this with that chemical what could possibly go wrong?'' but ''hmm, this is good, let's try changing this aspect and see what happens''.
That's what ''think different'' really means.

Rick Darby said...


We may think we know what the future holds, but expectations have a way of being trounced. I've lived long enough to see many predictions and assumptions turn out to be dead wrong.

It sure enough looks like we are heading for a repressive Marxist state and a continuing economic disaster. In contrast to your commenter Positive Thinker in the December 5 posting, I simply don't believe that "there is no way that white American men are going to quietly accept being discriminated against, scapegoated, impoverished, targeted for violence and imprisonment, and otherwise destroyed by a bunch of blacks, browns, mixed-race people, Asians, feminists, etc."

No way? That's exactly what white Americans have been doing, are doing. Our people have a death wish.

But one thing you can count on is change, and while sometimes it's for the worse, sometimes it's for the better. I will not waste whatever time I have left in this life in a futile rage against the machine. I'm going to console myself, as best I can, with the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Rick Darby said...


Thanks. Blogging here may become less frequent but I don't see any reason to scrap the site.

Yes, even a French (!) court had a mild burst of sanity re the Concorde accident. When something goes terribly wrong, there's a natural tendency to find someone at fault.

But criminalization of aircraft accidents creates a chilling effect on the reporting of hazards that could be corrected. It's a minus for aviation safety. Victims and relatives of victims have a remedy in civil court. Nobody wins criminal cases about accidents but the lawyers.