“Every artist was first an amateur.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When jazz great Dave Brubeck passed away recently, there were a raft of tributes to his fearless and innovative style. What struck me most about him was his incredible range and curiosity. He seemed to be fascinated by just about every type of music and over a long career, according to Ben Ratliff in the New York Times, Dave explored “musical theater and the oratorio, baroque compositional devices and foreign modes.”
His mother was a choir director who believed that if you wanted to hear music, you should make it. So Dave and his two brothers did just that. They learned to play different instruments and experimented with everything from “classical etudes, spirituals, and cowboy songs.”
Over time, Dave built a band, won a record label, and garnered an audience. As part of a State Department goodwill tour, Dave and his quartet traveled to the Middle East and India, and he became “intrigued by musical languages that didn’t stick to 4/4 time….” The result was hit album called “Time Out” that eventually sold two million copies.
Dave never stopped experimenting and playing around: In addition to original hits like “Take Five,” some of his best-known tunes were overhauls of oldies but goodies like “Pennies From Heaven.” In the late 1950s, he even put out an album called, “Dave Digs Disney” in which he played the songs from popular Disney movies. How crazy is that?
After his band broke up, Dave kept on composing. Later in life, he created oratorios, cantatas, a ballet, classical works, and even a jazz musical dealing with race relations called, “The Real Ambassadors.” When he was asked what jazz meant to him, Dave said, “One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through they rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”
I love the way Dave embraced different kinds of music and gave them his own spin. Let’s bring this same originality and playfulness to our own work. Write on!