Wednesday, December 05, 2012

RIP Dave Brubeck

I remember it like it was yesterday. I became enamoured with music at a young age, courtesy of Billy Joel's 52nd Street. I was a bit of a Billy Joel obsessive as a kid, and in one of his long-form VHS tapes, Shades of Grey, he made a passing mention of Dave Brubeck's Time Out and that the artwork adorned a wall of his house. With the gift money of my ninth birthday, I went and bought Time Out.

"Strange Meadowlark" changed my life. Even at nine years old, and having only played piano for three years at that point, I viscerally knew that that - whatever "that" was - was what I wanted to do, what I wanted to become. Not long after purchasing the album, I got the folio of transcriptions and diligently learned most of them. I bought a bunch of the Telarc Brubeck records of the 90s and 2000s - Young Lions and Old Tigers was my pre-adolescent introduction to musicians like Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove. Along with Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis, Brubeck was my gateway into jazz. One of my first issues of Down Beat had a joint interview with Brubeck and Peterson. I can't even very well articulate just how deeply Brubeck affected me as a kid. He is a truly formative influence - not in the sense of someone whose vocabulary I investigated and analyzed, but in the sense of someone who truly altered my life path. It's been years since I've listened to any of those records, Time Out included, but I would not be a pianist, composer, or even possibly a jazz fan, without Dave Brubeck's work.

Though I never saw him live, at his last appearance at the Montreal Jazz Festival I did get to briefly tell him the effect that Time Out had on me. I told him, with all truthfulness and no exaggeration, that I owe him my career. A trite statement, and likely one he had heard countless times over his long career, but a meaningful moment for me nonetheless.

Rest in peace, Mr. Brubeck. You have inspired countless musicians to pursue the path we call "jazz."

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