Legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck died yesterday. I would never pass myself off as a jazz aficionado, not by a long shot. But I’m at least dialed into traditional jazz more than, say classical music or rap. Dave Brubeck’s music has been a companion of mine for more than 10 years.
Even the most casual of jazz fans are familiar with his signature compositions, if not, the man himself. You may not know his signature piece by name—Take Five—but you’ve probably heard it more than you realize.
Take Five is Brubeck’s most successful commercial piece. And there’s a good reason for that: it is, very nearly, a perfect piece of music. Timeless, engaging, engulfing, mood-enhancing and with a seemingly endless piano groove that could last forever.
Brubeck’s saxophonist Paul Desmond deserves a lion’s share of credit, as it is his composition and is the perfect accompaniment to whatever activity you’ve got going on. Whether it’s a cocktail party, a long drive, a seduction or planning a caper (as my brother would say), Take Five will get you there. For me, the only other song I can think of that has a similar construction and vibe is Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. I’m not kidding.
Take Five was my Dave Brubeck gateway drug. It awakened my curiosity for jazz music and opened a door to me that changed my perspective on music. About 10 or 11 years ago, I was bored with the music in my collection, so I decided to poke around the file-sharing world (remember those?) searching for something different, something new; well, something new to me. That’s how I found Dave Brubeck. And John Coltrane. And Miles Davis.
It was like crashing into a whole new world. A very groovy, swanky world that oozed with cool music that felt like the soundtrack to every cool 1960s party hosted by Hugh Hefner you could ever imagine. Every piece of music I listened to—Blue Rondo A La Turk, My Favorite Things, Four, Blue Train—left me wanting more, more, more.
I’ve only scratched the surface. My sum knowledge of jazz music could be carried in a thimble, by comparison to the authentic jazz fans. But even in my limited jazz worldview, I know my record collection is much better with the inclusion of an artist like Dave Brubeck.
I can only hope his music has resonated with others the same way it has with me.