Brubeck in context: The BBC’s ‘1959: The Year That Changed Jazz’


 
Pianist Dave Brubeck’s shedding of his mortal coil yesterday reminds us how important it is to view a figure like him in relation to his time.

Luckily we have BBC4’s 2009 documentary, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz to do just that. Produced by documentarian Paul Bernays and UK jazz DJ Jez Nelson, 1959 scrutinizes the impact of Brubeck’s classic Time Out album alongside three others from that year: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus’s Ah Um and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come.

The main Brubeck segment starts 12 minutes in, and the doc explores both the racial politics inherent in the Brubeck phenomenon, and the influence of his band’s groundbreaking 1959 tour of the Soviet Bloc, Mideast and South Asia on Time Out. But the whole hour is worth watching, if only for the compelling close-readings of masterpieces like Davis’s iconic “So What,” Coleman’s intense “Lonely Woman,” Mingus’s firey “Fables of Faubus.” The doc’s juxtaposition of Brubeck’s ascendance to Mr. Cool-ness against Coleman’s Cold War-tinged urgency is also a nice touch.

With an interview roster that includes Hal Wilner, Lou Reed, Stanley Crouch, Charlie Haden, Sue Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Nat Hentoff, 1959 offers up some crucial background as to what made Brubeck and his contemporaries what they were.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dave Brubeck Quartet: In Concert, Germany 1966

 

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
Dave Brubeck Quartet: In Concert, Germany 1966

dave_brubeck_quartet
 
Dave Brubeck claimed he had 2 ambitions when he first started out as a Jazz musician - “to play polytonally and polyrhythmically.”

He also said his inspiration for rhythm was the heart beat, for this was what we heard first, and last.

Brubeck was a giant of Jazz, whose passing at the age of 91, brings an end to one of the greatest eras of American Jazz.

He popularized Jazz like few other composers/musicians of his day, becoming a household name and the first million-selling Jazz musician, who also made the cover of Time magazine in 1954. The purists didn’t like him, and many classed his brand of Jazz as “easy listening”, but this is to do him and his music a great disservice.

Take a listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Brubeck - Piano, Paul Desmond - Alto Saxophone, Joe Morello - Drums, Gene Wright - Bass), filmed in concert in Germany, November 6th, 1966.

Track LIsting:

01. “Take the ‘A’ Train”
02. “Forty Days”
03. “I’m in a Dancing Mood”
04. “Koto Song”
05. “Take Five”

R.I.P. Dave Brubeck 1920-2012
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion