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Dave Brubeck Quartet

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In 1951, Brubeck damaged several neck vertebrae and his spinal cord while diving into the surf in Hawaii. He would later remark that the paramedics who attended had described him as a "DOA" (dead on arrival). Brubeck recovered after a few months, but suffered with residual nerve pain in his hands for years after.[15] The injury also influenced his playing style towards complex, blocky chords rather than speedy, high-dexterity, single-note runs.

Brubeck organized the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, with Paul Desmond on alto saxophone. They took up a long residency at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses, recording a series of albums with such titles as Jazz at Oberlin (1953), Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953), and Brubeck's debut on Columbia RecordsJazz Goes to College (1954).

When Brubeck signed with Fantasy Records, he thought he had a half interest in the company and he worked as a sort of A & R man for the label, encouraging the Weiss brothers to sign other contemporary jazz performers, including Gerry MulliganChet Baker and Red Norvo. When he discovered that all he owned was a half interest in his own recording, he was more than willing to sign with another label, Columbia Records.[16]

In 1954, he was featured on the cover of Time, the second jazz musician to be so honored (the first was Louis Armstrong on February 21, 1949).[17] Brubeck personally found this accolade embarrassing, since he considered Duke Ellington more deserving of it and was convinced that he had been favored for being Caucasian.[18] Ellington himself knocked on the door of Brubeck's hotel room to show him the cover and the only reaction Brubeck could give was, “It should have been you.”[19]

Early bassists for the group included Ron Crotty, Bob Bates, and Bob's brother Norman Bates; Lloyd Davis and Joe Dodge held the drum chair. In 1956 Brubeck hired drummer Joe Morello, who had been working with Marian McPartland; Morello's presence made possible the rhythmic experiments that were to come. In 1958 African-American bassist Eugene Wright joined for the group's U.S. Department of State tour of Europe and Asia. Wright became a permanent member in 1959, making the "classic" Quartet's personnel complete. During the late 1950s and early 1960s Brubeck canceled several concerts because the club owners or hall managers continued to resist the idea of an integrated band on their stages. He also canceled a television appearance when he found out that the producers intended to keep Wright off-camera.[20]

In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded Time Out, an album about which the record label was enthusiastic but which they were nonetheless hesitant to release. Featuring the album art ofS. Neil Fujita, the album contained all original compositions, almost none of which were in common time: 9/8, 5/4, 3/4, and 6/4 were used inspired by Eurasian folk music they experienced during that Department of State sponsored tour.[21] Nonetheless, on the strength of these unusual time signatures (the album included "Take Five", "Blue Rondo à la Turk", and "Three To Get Ready"), it quickly went platinum. It was the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies.[22]

Time Out was followed by several albums with a similar approach, including Time Further Out: Miro Reflections (1961), using more 5/4, 6/4, and 9/8, plus the first attempt at 7/4; Countdown: Time in Outer Space (dedicated to John Glenn) (1962), featuring 11/4 and more 7/4; Time Changes (1963), with much 3/4, 10/4 (which was really 5+5), and 13/4; and Time In (1966).

These albums (except the last) were also known for using contemporary paintings as cover art, featuring the work of Joan Miró on Time Further OutFranz Kline on Time in Outer Space, andSam Francis on Time Changes.

A high point for the group was their 1963 live album At Carnegie Hall, described by critic Richard Palmer as "arguably Dave Brubeck's greatest concert".

In the early 1960s, Brubeck and his wife Iola developed a jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, based in part on experiences they and their colleagues had during foreign tours on behalf of the Department of State. The soundtrack album, which featured Louis ArmstrongLambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Carmen McRae was recorded in 1961; the musical was performed at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.

At its peak in the early 1960s, the Brubeck Quartet was releasing as many as four albums a year. Apart from the "College" and the "Time" series, Brubeck recorded four LPs featuring his compositions based on the group's travels, and the local music they encountered. Jazz Impressions of the USA (1956, Morello's debut with the group), Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958),Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964), and Jazz Impressions of New York (1964) are less well-known albums, but all are brilliant examples of the quartet's studio work, and they produced Brubeck standards such as "Summer Song," "Brandenburg Gate," "Koto Song," and "Theme From Mr. Broadway." (Brubeck wrote, and the Quartet performed, the theme song for the Craig Stevens CBS drama series; the music from the series became material for the "New York" album.)

In 1961, Dave Brubeck appeared in a few scenes of the British jazz/beat film All Night Long, which starred Patrick McGoohan and Richard Attenborough. Brubeck merely plays himself, with the film featuring close-ups of his piano fingerings. Brubeck performs "It's a Raggy Waltz" from the Time Further Out album and duets briefly with bassist Charles Mingus in "Non-Sectarian Blues".

In the early 1960s Dave Brubeck was the program director of WJZZ-FM radio (now WEZN-FM). He achieved his vision of an all-jazz format radio station along with his friend and neighbor John E. Metts, one of the first African Americans in senior radio management.

The final studio album for Columbia by the Desmond/Wright/Morello quartet was Anything Goes (1966) featuring the songs of Cole Porter. A few concert recordings followed, and The Last Time We Saw Paris (1967) was the "Classic" Quartet's swan-song.

Members

Years Lineup
1951–1956
1953

(Jazz at Oberlin)

  • Dave Brubeck – piano
  • Paul Desmond – alto saxophone
  • Ron Crotty – double bass
  • Lloyd Davis – drums
1956–1958
1958–1968

(Classic quartet)

  • Dave Brubeck – piano
  • Paul Desmond – alto saxophone
  • Joe Morello – drums
  • Eugene Wright – double bass (also credited "Gene Wright")
1968–1972

("The Dave Brubeck Trio & Gerry Mulligan")

Additional personnel
  • Paul Desmond – alto saxophone (October 1972 quintet for We're All Together Again)
1972–1976

("The Darius Brubeck Ensemble")

Additional personnel
  • Paul Desmond – alto saxophone (guest soloist on some concerts)
  • Gerry Mulligan – baritone saxophone (guest soloist on some concerts)
1976–1977

(Classic quartet reunion – 25th anniversary)

  • Dave Brubeck – piano
  • Paul Desmond – alto saxophone
  • Joe Morello – drums
  • Eugene Wright – double bass
1977–Early 2000s
  • Dave Brubeck – piano
  • Chris Brubeck – bass trombone, electric upright bass, electric fretless bass
  • Dan Brubeck – drums
  • Darius Brubeck – piano, electric piano
Additional personnel
  • Matthew Brubeck – cello (guest on a few sets)
  • Randy Jones – drums (guest on some sets)
  • Bobby Militello – alto saxophone, tenor saxophoneflute (guest, such as 1993's Late Night Brubeck)
  • Jack Six – double bass (guest on some sets)
  • Bill Smith – clarinet (guest, such as 1987's Moscow Nights and In Moscow)
Early 2000s–2012
  • Dave Brubeck – piano
  • Randy Jones – drums
  • Bobby Militello – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute
  • Michael Moore – double bass

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