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Dave Brubeck, Concerto inspiration, passes away

December 5, 2012

dave_brubeckPioneering 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.

Bernstein_Plays_Brubeck

– 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:


Unsuare Dance Full Score - excerpt

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:

All about Concerto for Group and Orchestra 2012.

Read BBC’s obituary for Dave Brubeck

Spotify users might be able to hear the full album, Bernstein plays Brubeck plays Bernstein here.

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2 comments

  1. I remember that and Raggy Waltz. It was Jon that introduced me to Dave Brubeck at Drama School! And Aaron Copeland! What fun we all had in the sixties! Hope you’re still playing in those Heavenly Realms, Jon, Love Sheelagh McGrath xxx


  2. I always enjoyed Jon’s rendition of “Unsquare Dance” and I was lucky to see him performing the song live in Berlin in 2005. He must’ve had fun playing this although I remember he was also very concentrated while plyaing the piano. Not an easy tune to play, I guess.



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