Friday, 7 December 2012

RIP Dave Brubeck

It was with nostalgic sadness that I learned about the death of jazz legend DaveBrubeck yesterday. Not only was Dave Brubeck an amazing musician, but he was a pianist – and it's rare for a keyboard player to headline a band in almost any genre. As a keyboard player, I know this!

Let me paint a little musical picture. I took School Certificate Music in fifth form when most 'bright' girls had long given up the subject. My school let me take performance music in sixth form, but then asked, "haven't you taken this music thing far enough?" when I wanted to take Bursary music. To this day, I am glad my mother took on the school principal by saying, "I don't think you understand: my family are musicians." It worked. Music went on to become a degree subject, a career and a lifelong passion.

'Classical' music was pretty new to me at school. A tiny part of the School Cert prescription (yes, they were prescriptions in those days) was about jazz music and the set piece was none other than the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s legendary Take Five. I didn't know much about jazz music either at the time, other than it was something my rock and pop music family were generally wary of. I remember listening to the crackly record player in the music room and was instantly caught out by the 5/4 rhythm. That was different. Challenging, almost.

Take Five became a suite of musical works whose every note is engrained into my memory all these years later. We had to listen repeatedly to the music we studied and analyse musical scores in great detail, but I don’t remember there being a score for Take Five. That's because it was made up of this thing called improvisation. I knew about jamming, but this took things to a whole new level. How can you improvise on a theme in 5/4 timing, playing 'freely' while concentrating so intently on such an unconventional time signature?

A few years later, I remember hearing Pink Floyd’s "Money" for the first time on the radio while driving home one night. I had to pull over and listen to the rest of the song at the side of the road. How can you drive to a song with 7/4 timing interspersed with 4/4? It took me right back to Take Five all over again.

RIP Dave Brubeck. You leave behind a lengthy back catalogue and an impressive contribution to music. I can't begin to thank you enough for introducing me to my love of jazz music and the world of polyrhythm.

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