Jazz Podcasts

Video: Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck

Directlyย  below are parts one and two of The Daily Music Break’s interview with Philip Clark about Dave Brubeck. In the post is an audio-only version of the interview. Below that is a tremendously enjoyable video of “Take Five,” Brubeck’s best known song. That’s followed by some album choices available at Amazon. Philip’s biography, “Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time” is available through Amazon, the Da Capo Press and, as the saying goes, fine bookstores everywhere. All photos courtesy of Philip Clark.

Much of the discussion surrounding Dave Brubeck involves the idea of time, though in different ways. This came through clearly in my conversation with Philip Clark, author of “Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time.” The seed obviously was planted in the book’s title and is prominence in its introduction (which can be read in the “Look Inside” feature).

Brubeck with “Take Five” composer Paul Desmond

Perhaps most significantly, Brubeck experimented with time signatures and rhythms. Philip offers an explanation in the first part of the video and in the book. It’s complex stuff not easily understood by somebody who is not a musician or, for that matter, not a mathematician. The most important point is not technical, however. It’s that Brubeck was able to integrate these advanced ideas and approaches while keeping the final pieces accessible and tuneful enough that he became a star.

The second way in which time plays a role is in Brubeck’s stability. For instance, the Brubeck’s marriage lasted 70 years (and his wife, Iola, was an important figure in his career). The Brubeck Philip describes is a family man, a suburbanite with a nice house in an affluent town in Connecticut. The vision is more of a guy riding a commuter train to his job as an accountant or actuary than somebody pushing the boundaries of jazz. This of course stands in opposition to the stereotype of musicians as highly creative and dramatic characters.

Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck–Audio Only

  1. Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck, Part 1 25:48
  2. Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck, Part 2 25:51
The final time element is when Brubeck lived and worked. Jazz, of course, was dominated by African-Americans. Brubeck was white. Philip verified a touching story that illustrates how life worked back then. In 1954, Brubeck became the second jazz musician to be featured on the cover of Time magazine (Louis Armstrong was featured five years earlier). This was a big deal back then. Brubeck happened to be staying at the same hotel as Duke Ellington when the issue was published. Ellington knocked on Brubeck’s door, handed him the magazine and congratulated him. Brubeck is said to have glanced at the magazine and looked up at Ellington — who Philip said was one of his heroes — and said, “It should have been you.”

As great as Brubeck was, it’s impossible to argue he was more important than Duke Ellington. But it was Brubeck who got the cover. After all, it was a different time.

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Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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