Aloha Dave Brubeck (1920 – 2012)

Dave Brubeck withHeidi Chang 3-21-81

Hawaii jazz host Heidi Chang presenting a pikake flower lei to jazz master Dave Brubeck in 1981

So sad to hear that jazz legend Dave Brubeck passed away today. He died of heart failure in Norwalk, Connecticut, just a day before his 92nd birthday. The gifted pianist and composer touched so many people around the world, including Hawaii. I still remember how kind and gracious he was when he stopped by for an interview on my jazz show at KGU Radio in 1981. I also had the honor of emceeing his concert–Brubeck dazzled thousands of fans who packed the Waikiki Shell.

Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck | Photo courtesy the Brubeck family

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When I heard the news of Brubeck’s death, I found the ol’ tape of his interview. Boy, did he have some stories to tell. Brubeck reminisced about the first time he performed in Honolulu in 1951, and brought an unknown sax player with him by the name of Paul Desmond. “You know what happened. He became one of the greatest saxophonists in the world. And I think probably the most lyrical.”

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (Composed by Paul Desmond)

Brubeck also reflected on what inspired his music, and some of the highs and lows along the way.

So how was the bandleader able to keep his quartet going all these years?

“Mainly it’s dedication. And when everything goes wrong, like it did for years, then you don’t give up, and your wife doesn’t give up, and the kids don’t know enough to give up, they suffer along,” Brubeck chuckled. “But you hang in there, when everything is against you, hoping that the tide will turn, and that you’ll be able to live in a house someday, and have a decent way of living…”

What were some of the happiest moments in Brubeck’s musical career?

“Playing with people like Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and all of my groups have brought me a lot of happiness,” he said. The maestro was especially proud of the musical works he created with his wife, Iola, and performing with his talented sons.

Dave Brubeck Quartet

Dave Brubeck Quartet | Photo courtesy the Brubeck family

Recently, Brubeck’s oldest son, Darius, shared an interesting story about his father on Facebook: Jazz’s Dave Brubeck’s 92nd Birthday Dec. 6. The writer, Owen McNally, described Brubeck as “a Jimmy Stewart kind of character with a profound spiritual side and with absolutely no dark side—no drug or alcohol addiction, no womanizing, just an old-fashioned, democratic sense of live and let live and firm belief in doing the right thing…” How true. Brubeck’s family, friends and fans were all hoping the jazz master would reach 92.

Thank you, Dave Brubeck, for creating so much great music all these years. And many thanks to his family for sharing him with us, too. What a wonderful life. Sending Aloha to Iola and the Brubeck family.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – In Your Own Sweet Way (Composed by Dave Brubeck)

Related links and stories

Papa Dave: Remembering Dave Brubeck
He Gave Jazz New Pop – NY Times
Remembering Dave Brubeck – Chick Corea
The Brilliance Of Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck’s website

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