Sunday, December 9, 2012

Take 5: West Coast Cool

Chances are that nobody but my Dad will read this post all the way to the end, but if a few of you do and it gets into your ears, then it's been worthwhile posting.
It's a shame how sometimes it takes the passing of a great artist in order for their work to be thrust back into the view of mainstream audiences.  Dave Brubeck passed away a few days ago, on December 5th, one day before his 92nd birthday.  He was a jazz pianist and composer, a figurehead of the "west coast cool" scene and considered to be one of the foremost proponents of "progressive jazz".

Through my late teenage years, in my Dad's house dinner times were often announced by the sound of a cork popping from a bottle of wine and a jazz cd starting up.  It was never something that I paid a great deal of attention to; the music wasn't there to be listened to intently (as with most modern 3 minute thirty second songs) but more of a background layer, a decoration, something that you could dip in and out of as and when you pleased.  Over time I absorbed a lot of classic albums, and have a healthy respect for jazz as an art form.  I grew up playing the drums; jazz is difficult beyond words, it is another level of musicianship that just ties knots in my "4/4" trained brain.

Brubeck led the charge of West Coast Californian jazz musicians in the 1950's, helping to sign musicians such as Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan to Fantasy Records before then moving onto the Columbia label.  His life didn't feature any of the headline grabbing tragedy that characterised the biographies of many of his contemporaries who suffered under the needle and the bottle, it was simply driven by musical curiosity and a strong work ethic.  Take a listen to "Take Five" in the video above, and if you dig, then dig a little deeper.   

Image: Mat Arney.

Marcus Shelby, performing with his trio at Pearls, San Francisco, December 2007.  
Image: Mat Arney.

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