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Dave Brubeck: 'Jazz Goes to College'

The cover of Jazz Goes to College


MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Can you make clever, interesting and engaging music and still sell a heap of records? You can if you're pianist Dave Brubeck, and you can do it for a very long time. I'm Murray Horwitz, and today we are adding Dave Brubeck's Jazz Goes to College into the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library.


HORWITZ: The Dave Brubeck Quartet would not have their huge hit until 1960 with the album Time Out and the classic, "Take Five." But listening to the audience response on this 1954 live recording, you can hear how popular they had already become with their very clean and reserved style. As a matter of fact, in 1954, Brubeck was such a presence in American culture that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine.


HORWITZ: You can't really mention Dave Brubeck's name without mentioning Paul Desmond. Brubeck likes complicated harmonies and non-standard rhythms. And his alto saxophonist's light and almost ethereal tone was the perfect counterbalance to that, and to the touches of classical music that Brubeck added sometimes to his solos and his compositions. The spare arrangements on this CD are deceptively simple. Don't be fooled, there's a lot of music going on. There's a cut, "Balcony Rock," for example, that is basically a blues but from the start the improvisation is nonstop. It's always creative and complex.


HORWITZ: The Dave Brubeck Quartet would last with a few changes in the bass and drums, until 1967. But this line up, with Bob Bates playing bass and Joe Dodge at the drums, is an early snapshot of music that is as sophisticated as it is relaxed. The CD is Dave Brubeck's Jazz Goes to College and its one of the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces series on Columbia Records. The Basic Jazz Record Library is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Murray Horwitz
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