[f_minor] Take Five

James Wright James_Wright at carleton.ca
Wed Dec 5 14:32:43 MST 2012

A strikes me as bit ironic that you opened your note with "Nil nisi bono de mortuis," Bill (essentially "do not speak ill of the dead," I gather).  Brubeck certainly had his share of critics throughout his career.  But he's a musician and a human being, after all, and I think we might let him rest in peace today.

James K. Wright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor &
Supervisor of Performance Studies
School for Studies in Art & Culture: Music
A817 Loeb Building, Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada  K1S 5B6
Email: James_Wright at carleton.ca<mailto:James_Wright at carleton.ca>
Telephone : (613) 520-2600 (ext. 3734)
Fax : (613) 520-3905

From: f_minor [mailto:f_minor-bounces at glenngould.org] On Behalf Of Anita Monroe
Sent: December-05-12 4:16 PM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Take Five

I've NEVER thought of Dave Brubeck in that way.  I first heard him live here in Clemson in 1955 and really enjoyed hearing him.  I liked his
rhythms and complications.  I heard him again in Key West in the late 80's and he was even better.  I guess all of us have different opinions.


On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 3:56 PM, David Pelletier <promonde at aol.com<mailto:promonde at aol.com>> wrote:
Gee, how PC are you?

Sent from my iPhone

On Dec 5, 2012, at 2:58 PM, "Robert  Merkin" <bobmerk at earthlink.net<mailto:bobmerk at earthlink.net>> wrote:
Nil nisi bono de mortuis.

Beyond his freakish finger span -- I think he could play a 12th -- Brubeck filled a very undistinguished niche in jazz. He produced a "safe," unsurprising product that white college-educated audiences felt comfortable consuming. It was also "television safe" because with very few exceptions, USA commercial networks took decades to broadcast African-American (Negroes in those days) artists.

(Only Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" featured integrated or black jazz artists; it was a syndicated show never broadcast in the racially segregated South.)

With his "revolutionary" and whack time signatures, Brubeck's work was European//classically sophisticated -- but soulless. He seemed to view improvisation -- the heart of jazz -- as a slovenly embarrassment; there's not a measure of improvisation in his super-selling breakthrough albums.

That's why saxophonist Paul Desmond deserted the DB Quartet. He knew Brubeck wasn't playing jazz and never would. Desmond and Gerry Mulligan were the only white contemporaries of Brubeck who "got it," who seamlessly recorded with black artists.

I'm sorry to say that in the USA 1950s, genuine, historical-roots black jazz and R&B scared white Americans. It was spontaneous, energetic, exciting, thrilling, and worst of all, highly sexual, its sexual references only thinly veiled with puns and jokes. That didn't matter until the 1960s, because none of the major recording labels would touch black artists; their brilliant (and naughty) work got its limited airplay and sales on "race" labels sold only in the black ghettos.

Brubeck got all that airplay and filled stadiums because his stuff wasn't very challenging, contained references to respectable classical music, and didn't frighten white kids (or their parents who snooped to hear what the kids were listening to).

Brubeck didn't invent this niche. In previous decades, Paul Whiteman (and no white man was more aptly named) sanitized George Gershwin's jazz derivitives for white audiences, and in the '40s Benny Goodman did the same. Goodman actually featured African-American musicians in his band (I don't think Glenn Miller did).

It's easy to blame the big labels and radio and television networks as the villains of this sad American history, but it was the timidity and conformity of white consumers which did most of the harm. (It was rock's "scholars" like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and the early Beatles who re-discovered historical African-American jazz and blues for white audiences.)

Europeans weren't so timid. During the Nazi era, Germans (Berliners mostly) braved the concentration camp to smuggle in black American jazz records, and during the Soviet era Eastern Europeans would risk the gulags to listen to their beloved jazz. This was, after all, depraved and decadent Western music.

I've often wondered if I'd have the guts to risk prison to listen to my favorite music. But for decades thousands did -- and I suspect in some "Great Firewall" places, people still do.

Massachusetts USA

----- Original Message -----
From: Kpapademas at aol.com<mailto:Kpapademas at aol.com>
To: f_minor at glenngould.org<mailto:f_minor at glenngould.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:31 PM
Subject: [f_minor] Take Five

The passing of Dave Brubeck, 91 years old!


Take Five!


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://ff0.org/pipermail/f_minor/attachments/20121205/999a5f4d/attachment.html>

More information about the f_minor mailing list