Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Cool Cat Who Was H-O-T

A lot of things are being said about Dave Brubeck, the jazz legend who died yesterday at the age of 91 — a day short of his 92nd birthday.

Like most, NBC News remembered his signature composition, "Take Five," the piece that became one of the best–selling jazz recordings of all time.

In the Washington Post, Matt Schudel said Brubeck was "one of the world's foremost ambassadors of jazz."

Pat Eaton–Robb of the Associated Press wrote that his "pioneering style ... caught listeners' ears with exotic, challenging rhythms."

That's pretty impressive stuff.

Well deserved, too.

My memories of Brubeck are a bit more ordinary, I suppose — at least my earliest ones. I don't know how old I was at the time, but I remember my father putting a record of "Time Out," the album on which "Take Five" first appeared, on the old turntable we used to have and listening to it, tapping his feet in rhythm.

I don't know if he saw me or knew I was there. In hindsight, I can't be sure. I don't even know if I was sure at the time. But the image has remained with me all my life. I can't hear "Take Five" without thinking of my father.

I don't know if I knew at the time what Brubeck looked like. If I did, I must have picked up on his resemblance to my father — primarily his jet–black hair and eyeglasses.

Those were the things I would have recognized when I was little, but, as I say, I don't know how old I was before I had any idea what Brubeck looked like.

When I did learn what he looked like, my first reaction probably was that he looked a lot like Buddy Holly — once again, it was a glasses–and–hair thing.

He sure didn't sound like Buddy Holly.

But, like Buddy Holly, he made his own sound. He didn't try to do what others did. He did things his way.

And both jazz artists and jazz listeners will be forever grateful.