Article – Countdown To Dave Brubeck Ninetieth Birthday Celebrations

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 10:55

Continuing on with the BBC’s fondness for anniversaries and round, even numbers, there will be a couple of radio shows plus a television documentary in the run-up to the 90th birthday of Dave Brubeck, one of the pivotal figures in the development of jazz as we know it today.

The opening radio show will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in just under a fortnight on Tuesday 30 November, and is the first of a two-parter hosted by jazz singer and pianist Jamie Cullum, with the second part to be broadcast the following Tuesday, the day after Brubeck’s 90th itself. Cullum, who interviewed Brubeck at the Newport Jazz Festival back in the summer, says: “There are only a few figures in the world of jazz who are still around, who pretty much created the music, and Dave Brubeck is one of them.”

Birthday celebrations also include on 3 December an airing on BBC2 of television documentary Dave Brubeck – In His Own Sweet Way, a film co-produced by Clint Eastwood and BBC documentary strand Arena. Taking its name from a play on the title of one of Brubeck’s best known songs, the documentary relates Brubeck’s personal story as well as tracing his long and distinguished career from early musical experiences, up to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and beyond to Brubeck’s unique status in jazz.

It’s pretty hard to deny the influence that the Dave Brubeck Quartet has had on jazz, most notably with the album Time Out that explored odd time signatures not commonly employed before their use by the DBQ. Appearing in the same year of 1959 as other classic releases such as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, Time Out helped move jazz into a new transformative space within a wider public consciousness. What’s more, the album brought jazz to an audience and a level of popularity that it hadn’t seen since the 1930s, off the back of the unlikely hit ‘Take 5’. That track, which has been covered in seemingly every genre of music and is now something of a cliché, was groundbreaking at the time, particularly for its use of the 5/4 time signature and an extended drum solo, not something you’re likely to hear on X Factor any time soon.

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The upcoming radio and TV programmes act as a reminder of an at-times difficult journey to worldwide popularity by Brubeck himself. In the radio interview he recalls agonising conversations with his record company, as well as the difficulties he faced in forming and maintaining the quartet during punishing world tours that included visits to countries still behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War era.

– Colm Doyle

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