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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


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Ornette Coleman: Dancing In Your Head For Decades

National treasure Ornette Coleman has been showing people what freedom sounds like for more than 50 years. Here are two takes on his wildly manic (yet strangely accessible) “Dancing in Your Head” seperated by twelve years, from a small room in Rome for a film crew to a huge amphitheater in Japan for a rapt and adoring crowd. Coleman has long been a thorn in the side of so-called “jazz” lovers the world over with his self-styled harmelodic excursions . Just take a look at these anguished comments and witness some hapless musos trying to come to grips with what they’re hearing. Fun tip: play both clips simultaneously for extra harmelodic goodness !


Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment