Even those music fans who are fundamentally not interested in jazz know the famous piece Take Five by Dave Brubeck. His classic went down in music history. Fans never knew the pianist as a loud admonisher or critic, but that didn’t stop him from getting involved. He was already performing in the Eastern Bloc when that was still something extraordinary. In the course of his long career, however, the musician never allowed people to capture him. These days Dave Brubeck would have been 100 years old.
A Musical Ambassador
The musician particularly enjoyed his last tour through Europe. A few weeks earlier, he had his eyes operated and was then able to see all the colours again. He enjoyed playing those concerts. Decades before, Brubeck already toured the Soviet Union and Poland in the 1950s. He thereby acquired great importance for the people behind the iron curtain. So he developed into an ambassador for jazz. The US State Department, which financed its tours, recognized this at the time. Brubeck thus became an advertising star for the USA in the countries of the East. At the same time, he also recognized the inconsistency of his mission. After all, his band consisted of black and white musicians and gave the world a picture of harmony and cohesion that didn’t exist back then. After all, racial segregation still prevailed in the southern United States at that time. That was not acceptable to the musician. If there were problems because of that, he cancelled his concerts.
The son of a cattle breeder received piano lessons at the age of only four. His mother encouraged him, but the young Brubeck preferred to improvise rather than stubbornly play according to notes. In the military in Europe, he led a military orchestra and resumed his composition studies after the war. While still a student, he founded an orchestra that fused classical forms of music with jazz. Take Five was recorded back in 1959 and became the best-selling jazz single of all time. The pianist had made it onto the cover of Time Magazine five years earlier. From his breakthrough onwards, the musician regularly travelled across the world.
But not all of them paid homage to Brubeck’s skills. In his biography, contemporary Miles Davis accused him of merely smoothing out the music of blacks. But the good-natured Brubeck did not take the criticism very seriously. After all, Davis said this one day and that the next, wiping the jazz giant’s criticism off the table. He always called jazz a call for freedom. He saw himself as a composer who played the piano throughout his life. For him, jazz was the only art form in which the individual remains free without losing contact with the group. Brubeck performed live well into old age and died on December 5, 2012, one day before his 92nd birthday.