Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time
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We start on a tour bus early this century and that's more or less where we finish but in between Clark takes us back and forth across Brubeck's life and his music. Author Clark appears to be a devoted fan, but he often lapses into hipper-than-thou prose and wildly jumps back-and-forth through a few decades in a single chapter. Payments made using National Book Tokens are processed by National Book Tokens Ltd, and you can read their Terms and Conditions here. At a different level, Clark is sensitive to the musicians’ human characteristics, such as Desmond’s destructive ego and alcohol problems.
Philip Clark has produced an excellent book about Dave Brubecks progressive career and although it is a bit technical at times to a non musician like myself, it is never boring. and] fittingly, for a Brubeck biography, this is also a multifarious work; adventurous with narrative and structure.All fans of Brubeck will treasure this, though if you are not a musician, the descriptions of the execution of songs and concerts will leave you lost. There are little vignettes - the role of the US State Department in sending jazz groups out as cultural ambassadors, the way the mob ran jazz clubs and wrecked musicians' lives, the Brubeck influence on prog rock - but the core of the book is Brubeck's own music, described in loving, fascinating detail. It also looks at his influence on many strands of popular music since the 1950's and demonstrates he was as influential as any of the bebop players. Without it, "Ode to a Cowboy" would have been a pleasant enough riding-bareback-through-the-prairies theme; with it came depth and variety. sax, interaction with Charlie Parker; and including the early Octet, which had a strong alignment with the chromatic ideas of Milhaud etc.
But when he concentrated for a dozen or so pages on discussing Time Out - my personal favorite of Brubeck's albums, featuring tracks with the off-kilter time signatures like 'Take Five,' 'Blue Rondo a la Turk,' and 'Three to Get Ready' - it was great. This was a perfectly balanced mechanism with an immediately identifiable sound, thanks largely to the ethereal purity of Desmond’s tone in the group’s foreground.
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An ideal state of improvisational grace is reached when an "effortless flow of new material" springs from the sub-conscious-"the performer at this level has neither desire nor need for a preconceived pattern because he knows that the music comes from a source of infinite imagination and limitless variety. If you think back to what had been happening in the swing era, especially in the big bands-Duke Ellington, Basie, Benny Goodman-counterpoint was never really important. The learning that Milhaud had instilled into him ten years earlier, as they worked together on "Playland-at-the-Beach," was still taking Brubeck in new directions. Brubeck opened up as never before, disclosing his unique approach to jazz; the heady days of his "classic" quartet in the 1950s-60s; hanging out with Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis; and the many controversies that had dogged his 66-yearlong career.
I remember Bill Smith coming along with Boyd Raeburn, who he loved, and I was very keen on Stan Kenton.
Brubeck comes across as someone you would loved to have met and I was surprised to read what a heavy drinker the alto sax player Paul Desmond was. Woven throughout are cameo appearances from a host of unlikely figures from Sting, Ray Manzarek of The Doors, and Keith Emerson, to John Cage, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Partch, and Edgard Varese. In Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time , Clark provides us with a thoughtful, thorough, and long-overdue biography of an extraordinary man whose influence continues to inform and inspire musicians today.However after reading the biography especially regarding polytonality and polyrhythms both of which I was aware of, I felt the need to actually listen to the particular piece of music that he was talking about to totally understand what he was referring to. Few knew he couldn’t read music, yet he created a unique musical idiom that encapsulated much of the ’60s sound. Eventually, I even got to meet him and his wife when an ensemble I was in premiered some of his choral works. The first of his own encounters with Brubeck came in 1992, after a concert in Manchester, when he asked the artist to cast an eye over one of his own student compositions and received an encouraging response.