The Classical Side of Dave Brubeck

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
John Salmon, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Most members of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) probably know Dave Brubeck, born in 1920, as one of the pioneers of jazz, especially in the late 1950s when "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" became jazz standards. These works broke both commercial and musical boundaries, as the first jazz singles ever to sell a million recordings and the first jazz tunes in 5/4 and 9/8 meters, respectively. If you are a piano teacher, it is likely at least one of your piano students has expressed the desire to play one of these pieces, almost as ubiquitous a desire as to play "Für Elise" or the "Moonlight Sonata." As well, many music teachers today, otherwise cut off from the jazz world, have undoubtedly heard the Dave Brubeck Quartet live in concert. Brubeck has been touring with one form or another of this group for well over fifty years, making him one of jazz history's most active performers, and his audiences as large and demographically widespread as imaginable. Just as predictable, however, is that many MTNA members do not know of Brubeck's "other" career as a composer of concert works in almost every medium. From his early days as a composition student of Darius Milhaud at Mills College, Brubeck has maintained a parallel occupation as creator of written-out musical works, crafted with the same care for counterpoint, harmony and form as any work by Copland or Stravinsky. To be sure, this parallel career often has intersected Brubeck's "straight" jazz work, as when Brubeck's 1946 Octet (comprised mainly of Milhaud's composition students) would swing the standard "The Way You Look Tonight" in Brubeck's complex arrangement of counterpoint, sounding kind of like a fusion of Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis and Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing, or when a 1967 Brubeck would improvise Middle Eastern melodies within his large-scale choral work, The Light in the Wilderness.

Additional Information

American Music Teacher, February/March 2001
Language: English
Date: 2001
Jazz, Dave Brubeck, Classical music, Piano, Composition, Notation

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