Monday 6 December 2010

Mad about Brubeck

Happy 90th!


Three young men who emerged in the 1950s - Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck - not only captured the public's imagination, but in their own unique way determined the evolution of jazz as we know it today. Of this triumvirate, only Dave Brubeck remains. As he approaches his 90th birthday in December 2010, he is set to play New York's legendary Blue Note jazz club.

This Clint Eastwood co-produced documentary tells Brubeck's personal story, tracing his career from his first musical experiences to the overwhelming success of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the iconic status he and his varied forms of musical expression have achieved.

It is told with contemporary interviews, vintage performances, previously unseen archive and additional performances filmed especially for the documentary. The story is also told by Dave and Iola Brubeck, both in their own words and by musical example. Contributors include Bill Cosby, Jamie Cullum, Yo-Yo Ma, George Lucas and Eastwood himself.

In 2009 Brubeck was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, with Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Bumbry and Mel Brooks. He played with his sons for President Obama at the White House, and 55 years ago became the first jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time magazine. His classic Take Five is as familiar today as in 1959 when it was a Top 10 hit all over the world.

Brubeck has an unlikely origin for a jazz giant, growing up on a ranch in Monterey, California. Monterey resident Clint Eastwood introduced Brubeck and his Cannery Row Suite at the 2006 Monterey Jazz Festival and each were so inspired by the success of the event they agreed to move forward with this full-length documentary together.

Watch it on BBC iPlayer until 10 December. Look at Clint grinning like a kid in a toyshop; enjoy some great archive footage of Brubeck and Duke Ellington; enjoy Bad Boy Bill's warm tribute - but beware: Sting's in this too!!


'Take 5' by the Dave Brubeck Quartet is possibly one of the best know jazz pieces of all time. For many it reflects the hip West coast sound of fifties America and its success propelled Brubeck on to the international stage.

Paul Gambaccini travelled to the Connecticut home of the jazz legend to explore his music and career reflecting his war years, world famous Quartet, best known tunes and family. We hear about the Dave Brubeck Quartet classic line up featuring - drummer Joe Morello, bassist Eugene Wright and saxophonist Paul Desmond. The huge success of Desmond's composition "Take Five" was followed by many tunes played in Brubeck's unusual time signature best know of which - is 'Blue Rondo A La Turk'. What distinguishes Brubecks experiments in time is his innate sense of song and commitment to musical populism.

As we hear, in 'Brubeck at 90' these days when his health permits Dave enjoys playing with his musical sons Darius, Chris, Matthew and Danny. Happily as we discover he is still harvesting the highest awards his nation and his profession can offer, including the BBC Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award and most recently the Kennedy Center Honour in America alongside Bruce Springsteen, Robert Di Niro and Mel Brooks. A remarkable night as Brubeck rubbed shoulders with President Obama and got the surprise of his life as we hear in this revealing programme in the week Dave turns ninety.

Listen on BBC iPlayer:

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