Pioneering pianist and composer Dave Brubeck has passed away on December 5, aged 91. His recordings include Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk, but he was also an important inspiration for Jon’s idea to compose Concerto for Group and Orchestra.
In this 2008 interview, Jon talks of his early fascination with Brubeck.
– Within six months of being at Drama School in London [in 1960], I’d met a Dutchman who played the clarinet for fun and we used to play together. By the end of the first year I’d formed a jazz group with piano, bass, drums, and clarinet. We played weird modern jazz.
– One of my heroes was Dave Brubeck, the piano player, so we played a lot of his stuff. Dave Brubeck was very musical, ultra musical, and very clever. He was experimenting with time signatures which I still love to do. It wasn’t easy then but I’d always had a good ear and I learned to play jazz in the same way I could play pop music – by listening to it.
– So in 1969 I found myself in a band that I thought might be able to do something that I had dreamed about for 2-3 years. I wanted to write a piece of music which would have a rock band and an orchestra. The idea came originally when I heard a piece for jazz band and orchestra by The Dave Brubeck Quartet who played a piece with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and I had thought, when I was in The Artwoods, that that would be a great idea.
Listen to Allegro Blues of Howard Brubeck’s Dialogues For Jazz Combo And Orchestra, which inspired Jon to write for group and orchestra:
In later years, Jon would often perform his own arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance (click example to see score), a rhythmically quaint piece of good fun. Here is a version filmed for Jon’s Beyond The Notes Live DVD in 2004:
Spotify users might be able to hear the full album, Bernstein plays Brubeck plays Bernstein here.