Brubeck's gone. Dave Brubeck died yesterday at the age of 92. I didn't know about it until Don McIver posted a comment on Sunday's poem and then emailed me. He has been writing poems inspired by different jazz works and I've been posting them here on the DCF complete with videos. Three weeks ago it was Miles Davis. Just last Sunday it featured John Coltrane.
Yesterday Don sent me a new poem. It was about Dave Brubeck's Take Five. I will publish it next Sunday along with the video that he sent.
I first encountered Brubeck's music in college. I was a sophomore in 1962 at North Park College in Chicago. It was one of those great liberal arts colleges that the midwest is famous for, and it was run by my church--The Evangelical Covenant Church of America. Here I was, the son of two factory workers in Rockford, Illinois going to a religious college in the big, bad city of "Big Shoulders." The picture at right is from my 1962 NPC yearbook.
I didn't know much when I got to college. However I did have a record player back home and several albums. They included South Pacific, The Music Man, and a couple of Bozo the Clown hits. Now, within two years of leaving home I was buying Oscar Peterson, Lee Morgan, and Jimmy Smith. My mind, eyes, and ears had been opened.
That V-8 Buick
"Dave Brubeck is playing in Madison tomorrow--Let's go!" said my friend Ed Chalkagian. So naturally we went. There were five of us in his old yellow Buick convertible. It was December. The top was up, but one or two of the windows didn't roll up all the way. Madison was well over a hundred miles from Chicago and even though Ed drove as fast as that old V-8 would go it still took a long time to get there. All the while the wind was whistling and roaring as it buffeted us huddled together in the back seat. It was so loud and cold nobody talked until we got to Madison.
I couldn't hear anything when we stopped the car outside the University of Wisconsin's Student Union. I literally could not hear the person next to me shouting. I was still deaf as we entered the cafeteria for a bite to eat before the concert. I don't remember eating, but I do remember being amazed that the cafeteria line had beer spigots right next to the soft drink dispenser. The drinking age in Wisconsin was 18.
Oh, we went to the concert. Our seats were pretty good, but I didn't hear anything…just the faintest of notes from his piano…and the softest of a hint of a saxophone from Paul Desmond. It wasn't until later, sitting in the dorm room next door, that I heard and digested Time Out. Brubeck had everybody on the third floor of Burgh Hall talking about the 5/4 time of Take Five, and the incredible 9/8 signature of Blue Rondo A La Turk.
Yes, I learned a lot at North Park College, much of it in the dorm rooms late at night. One of those things was that nothing lasts forever, except maybe art. Brubeck is gone. But Blue Rondo A La Turk is a click away.