I sat and stewed about whether or not to write anything about Dave Brubeck for a day or two, and then decided to give it a try. I'll keep it short.
My father introduced me to Dave Brubeck when I was a child (not a personal introduction, but an introduction to his music). He'd play the albums for me and taught me to count out the odd time signatures. I would try to follow and understand Joe Morello's rythyms, both the elegantly simple (Unsquare Dance) and the subtly complex oscillations of time (Three To Get Ready). Although Take Five has long occupied the space somewhere between staple and cliche, I still love it. Father had (still has) all of Brubeck's albums on vinyl, and I played them in succession, learning his style along the way. His West Coast musical style was warm, clean, optimistic, academic, approachable, and free of the depression and drugs of the East Coast sound. I loved it.
In highschool, my parents bought me the cassette of Quiet As The Moon, and I instantly recognized Joe Morello's distinct drum style, until I read the insert and realized that the drums were played by Brubeck's son, in a style that was part imitation, part inspiration, and part tribute. We learn the things we do from our fathers, and our fathers' friends.
Elementals was the first good honest attempt at blending classical and jazz. Today, it hardly sounds cutting edge, but it was when it came out. It's even more James Bond than James Bond.
Dave Brubeck taught me the complex variations of style. He inspired me to take classical and blend it with modern in a fun experimental way. Though he taught me to not get too bogged down in the rules, he also demonstrated that one should damn-well know them and understand them. He also subliminally taught me to pay tribute to one's father, to follow his lessons, but to also adopt his style elements, first through awkward imitation, then self-exploring articulation, and finally through ingrained subconscious comfort.
My father saw the Dave Brubeck Quartet perform when he was in college. I had always hoped to see Brubeck play to close the loop on the father/son cycle, but it sadly never happened.
When I listen to it now, I still think of those hours, days, and years of listening to those albums with my father, counting out the time during solos that surely would stray, but never did. Father always encouraging me to explore further. I think about how Brubeck influenced both my style and my understanding of style, how it forms, and what it means. Experimentation, including abrupt or uncharacteristic departures from the norm create rich sounds for the ears and styles for the eyes. Occasionally, we miss, and sometimes we hit it just right.