Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – The legendary American jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, one of the most exciting names in music, will celebrate his 92nd birthday on December 6. Due to medical tests, Brubeck was unavailable for an interview with Jazz Beat, but Russell Gloyd, his producer, manager and conductor for the past 35 years said the iconic pianist is still committed to daily practice.
According to Gloyd, the group just released a 19-CD box set which covers all of the studio recordings of the classic Brubeck Quartet. “And we are now starting to look at doing another box which will exceed 19 CDs – which would be featuring all live recordings,” he said.
Columbia Records released a double album set on Dave Brubeck’s 90th birthday in 2010. Legacy of a Legend features influential pieces in jazz history recorded between 1954 and 1970. It includes vocal collaborations with jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing and Carmen McRae.
The last time Brubeck talked with VOA was in 1990, backstage at the JVC Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York. In an interview with my colleague Doug Levine, the legendary pianist explained how jazz started as a cry for freedom.
I played Brubeck’s music frequently on Jazz Club USA, a music show I hosted for 10 years for enthusiasts in the Middle East. He is best known for the hit “Take Five,” from his top-selling album Time Out. The song was frequently requested by listeners in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Iraq for dedication to family and friends.
“Take Five” was first released in 1959 and became the best-selling jazz single of all time. It was written by Brubeck’s long-time music partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. It has been included in a new two-disc collection of other familiar classics such as the “Blue Rondo a la Turk” — inspired during a Brubeck tour in Turkey in 1958 — and “Pick Up Sticks”. At the time, Brubeck was America’s jazz ambassador, named by the U.S. State Department. The legendary pianist and his Quartet have also toured the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
Another hit song that contributed to Brubeck’s worldwide fame is “Unsquare Dance” from his album Time Further Out. “It was a huge hit in France,” noted Gloyd.
Brubeck, who was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1954, has also composed orchestral and sacred music. In addition, Brubeck wrote soundtracks for television shows such as Mr. Broadway and the animated mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown.
The soon-to-be 92 Dave Brubeck is still going strong! He is often saluted by a standing ovation during his emotionally-charged performances.