Youngest of three musical brothers, Dave Brubeck was born in Concord,
California, on December 6, 1920. His father was a cattle rancher and his
mother a pianist and music teacher. When he was twelve, the family moved
from Concord to the foothills of the Sierras, where Brubeck's father
managed a 45,000 acre cattle ranch. Young Dave wanted to follow in this
father's footsteps and be a rancher. At the same time the lure of music,
and especially Jazz, drew him to the piano and local dance bands where he
was playing professionally by his early teens. He entered the College of
the Pacific, Stockton, California, as a pre-med student with the idea of
becoming a veterinarian and returning to the ranch. Working his way
through school as a Jazz pianist in local clubs, he decided to forsake the
cattle business and changed his college major to music. In 1942 he entered
the Army where he served under Patton in the European Theater.
Upon his discharge in 1946, Dave studied composition with Darius Milhaud,
the famous French composer, who was teaching at Mills College, Oakland,
California. Milhaud encouraged Brubeck to pursue a career both in Jazz and
in composition. Brubeck and other Milhaud students began to compose and
perform in an Octet, which recorded and received critical attention as an
innovative force in Jazz. Among the musicians in that early Octet were Cal
Tjader and Paul Desmond, who later became members of the Dave Brubeck Trio
and Quartet, and clarinetist Bill Smith, who still appears frequently with
the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Dave Brubeck and his Trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty cut their first
records in San Francisco in 1949 and won Best Small Combo awards in both
the Critics and the Reader's Polls in 'DownBeat' Magazine. When the Dave
Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond on alto saxophone was formed in 1951, the
distinctive harmonic approach employed by Brubeck and Desmond, and their
daring improvised contrapuntal choruses caused a stir in the Jazz world,
launching what later became known as "West Coast" or "cool" Jazz. The
Quartet's recordings and concert appearances on college campuses introduced
this new sound to thousands of students.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet played in Jazz clubs and toured with "package
shows" featuring such artists as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy
Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Gerry Mulligan. They won the first Jazz poll
conducted by 'The Pittsburgh Courier,' a Black newspaper, and repeatedly won
top honors in the 'DownBeat' Reader's polls. By 1954 Brubeck's popularity
was such that his picture appeared on the cover of 'Time Magazine' and his
recordings were being played throughout the world. In 1958 the State
Department sent the Quartet on a 3-month tour of countries behind the Iron
Curtain and the Middle East. This led to compositions and recordings
influenced by world music.
Always expanding Jazz horizons, Dave Brubeck and his Quartet has performed
and recorded with legendary Jazz figures Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing and
Carmen McRae. Yet another milestone in his career was his appearance in
1959 with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein,
performing and recording 'Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra,' composed
by Dave's brother, Howard.
An early experimenter in combining Jazz with symphony orchestras, Brubeck
continues to appear as composer-performer in concerts of his choral and
symphonic compositions. He celebrated his 70th, 75th and 80th birthdays with the
London Symphony Orchestra performing an all-Brubeck program which featured
him along with four of his sons as soloists.
Brubeck pioneered the presentation of two indigenous American art
forms - Jazz and modern dance - in a unique collaboration with the Murray
Louis Dance Company. They toured throughout the United States, Europe,
Canada and Japan. Earlier in his career he had composed "Points on Jazz"
for the American Ballet Theatre.
World tours, including several for the U.S. State Department, have made
Jazzman Dave Brubeck one of America's foremost goodwill ambassadors. He
entertained world leaders at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in Moscow in 1988.
He has performed before eight U.S. Presidents, princes, kings, heads of
state, and Pope John Paul ll for whom he also composed and performed a
commissioned work for the Pope's visit to San Francisco in 1987.
Over his long career, Dave Brubeck has received many honors, including a
star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, induction into the Pantheon of the Arts
at University of the Pacific, numerous awards from trade magazines, 'Playboy'
Magazine Hall of Fame, 'DownBeat' Hall of Fame, the Jazz Institute Hall of
Fame at Rutgers University, the American Eagle Award from the National
Music Council, the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award from Fairfield University,
the Connecticut Arts Award, Helwig Distinguished Artist Award, and honorary
doctorates from six American universities and one from University of
Duisburg in Germany. He has been cited by the French government for his
contribution to the arts. In 1996 he was inducted into the International
Jazz Hall of Fame.
Dave Brubeck, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, is a legendary figure in
contemporary Jazz. In 1999 he was named a Jazz Master by the National
Endowment for the Arts. There has also been growing recognition of Dave
Brubeck as composer of orchestral works, oratorios, cantatas, ballets and