The Dave Brubeck Quartet broke up in 1967 except for a 25th anniversary reunion in 1976; Brubeck continued playing with Desmond and then began recording with Gerry Mulligan. Desmond died in 1977 and left everything, including residuals and the immense royalties for “Take Five”, to the American Red Cross. Mulligan and Brubeck recorded together for six years and then Brubeck formed another group with Perry Robinson on clarinet (or Jerry Bergonzi on saxophone), and three of his sons, Dan, Darius, and Chris, on drums, bass, and keyboards. Brubeck continues to write new works, including orchestrations and ballet scores, and tours about 80 cities each year, upto recently about 20 of them in Europe in autumn. From his 85th birthday his European appearances will be limited. His area of focus is the US, where he still premieres new works, like the Cannery Row Suite, and a project with a bigband.
His quartet now includes alto saxophonist and flautist Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore (who replaced Alec Dankworth), and his long-time drummer Randy Jones and has recently worked extensively with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Brubeck was born in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Concord, California, and grew up in Ione. His father, Peter Howard "Pete" Brubeck, was a cattle rancher, and his mother, Elizabeth (née Ivey), who had studied piano in England under Myra Hess and intended to become a concert pianist, taught piano for extra money. His father had Swiss ancestry (the family surname was originally "Brodbeck") and possibly Native American Modoc lineage, while his maternal grandparents were English and German, respectively. Brubeck originally did not intend to become a musician (his two older brothers, Henry and Howard, were already on that track), but took lessons from his mother. He could not read music during these early lessons, attributing this difficulty to poor eyesight, but "faked" his way through, well enough that this deficiency went mostly unnoticed.
Intending to work with his father on their ranch, Brubeck entered the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California (now the University of the Pacific), studying veterinary science. He changed to music on the urging of the head of zoology, Dr. Arnold, who told him "Brubeck, your mind's not here. It's across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours." Later, Brubeck was nearly expelled when one of his professors discovered that he could not read music. Several of his professors came forward, arguing that his ability with counterpoint and harmony more than compensated. The college was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and agreed to let Brubeck graduate only after he had promised never to teach piano.
After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in Europe in the Third Army. He volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show and was such a hit that he was spared from combat service and ordered to form a band. He created one of the U.S. armed forces' first racially integrated bands, "The Wolfpack". While serving in the military, Brubeck met Paul Desmond in early 1944. He returned to college after serving nearly four years in the army, this time attending Mills College in Oakland. He studied under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration, but not classical piano. While on active duty, he received two lessons from Arnold Schoenberg at the UCLA in an attempt to connect with High Modernism theory and practice. However, the encounter did not end on good terms since Schoenberg believed that every note should be accounted for, an approach which Brubeck could not accept. Although according to his son Chris Brubeck, there is a twelve-tone row in The Light in the Wilderness, Dave Brubeck's first oratorio; in it Jesus's twelve disciples were introduced by each singing their own individual notes. It is described as “quite dramatic, especially when Judas starting singing 'Repent' on a high and straining dissonant note.”
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Nomad (1958)
Personnel: Paul Desmond (alto sax), Dave Brubeck (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), Joe Morello (drums)