As the news sinks in that jazz great Dave Brubeck has died at 91, I can’t help but think of one of the most beautiful, transcendent evenings of music I’ve experienced in recent years.
It was Brubeck’s performance at the piano, with his sons Chris and Dan backing him (on bass and drums respectively) in September 2009 at the Detroit Jazz Festival.
As the sun set in a pink and lavender sky behind the Pontchartrain, throwing a pink-gold light all over Hart Plaza as the nattily dressed 88-year-old (wearing, to complete the synchronicity, a pink shirt) played his heart out.
It was obvious that Brubeck fed off of the adoration of the audience. “You inspire me,” he said, after a typically fervent ovation.
It wasn’t just applause for his longevity, Brubeck took such obvious joy from his playing, and in that terrible year of the economic meltdown, transported us all away from earthly cares with his music, that it was unforgettable.
To see a musician still performing at such a high level at that age was inspiring.
He finally started to draw back on his appearances because of ongoing heart problems after ’09, and in fact he was on his way to a cardiologist appointment in Norwalk, Connecticut when he died. He would have turned 92 Thursday.
Brubeck’s 1959 pop hit with the instrumental “Take Five” didn’t earn him any jazz world cred, but was revolutionary in the way it inserted jazz into the pop mainstream (and was the first million-selling jazz single).
It’s a nice reminder of a time when jazz and pop temporarily coincided, when a complex yet simple song entranced millions and slipped into the Hot 100, when nobody was looking.
Addendum: The Brubeck family released this statement today via Brubeck’s Facebook page:
Brubeck Family Statement:
Our much loved and revered father, Dave Brubeck died of cardiac arrest today, December 5, 2012, one day before his 92nd birthday. He died peacefully with family present. The news spread before we even left Norwalk Hospital and our family is deeply appreciative of the phone calls, messages of condolence and continuing tributes in the media and those received personally, certainly a reflection back to us of Dave’s powerful and positive impact on the world. He specialized in long relationships; married to our mother for 70 years, had few changes of personnel in his outstanding quartets or in professional management and many of his fans became personal friends he knew for decades. We thank you all for your appreciation of him and the respect you have shown our family.
Darius, Chris, Dan, Catherine and Matthew Brubeck
Brubeck’s 1959 hit “Take Five”…