The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Countdown Time In Outer Space
I know I’ve told this story before, but let me bore you with it again. In 1965, between graduating from high school and leaving for college at IU, I bought my first jazz album, this one.
Why did I buy a jazz album? The basic answer is that I was leaving a small town to go to college, but wanted to seem more mature than I really was; so what better way to seem mature but to move beyond Rock & Roll and folk music? I wasn’t ready to embrace classical music, so I decided on jazz. I had heard a little jazz on television (remember Peter Gunn?) and on the radio with Cozy Cole (Topsy, Part 2) as well as Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. But I had never bought a single, much less an album, of jazz.
How did I choose this album? Well, like I said, I had heard one song by the quartet on the radio, but also the cover of the album had the image of a really cool abstract painting. I guess I thought that abstract art equalled maturity, just like jazz did. All I needed after that were a couple of pairs of corduroy pants, some button down shirts, and one navy blue plus one cranberry colored V-neck sweaters. How cool was I going to be?
Usually though, I just say that I made a conscious decision to try something new, and jazz is what I chose. It was, without a doubt, the best choice I could have made. I fell in love with the rhythms and the melodies on this album, and I fell in love with the group.
I was lucky enough to see them perform at IU during my freshman year, and then again when I was a junior. The concert my junior year was different because Paul Desmond, the quartet’s alto sax player was not there. Brubeck explained that Desmond had a dental emergency and was in New York City. Sitting in for him was Gerry Mulligan. That was great, and foreshadowed the time they would play together after the quartet was disbanded.
I continued to buy the quartet’s vinyl albums, and then later, CDs. In fact, one of the first CDs I bought was by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I have also converted all of my vinyl albums to MP3s and burned them onto CDs. I probably have around twenty albums on CD now.
Then in November of 2009, Brubeck played a concert at Purdue. I was able to go with Cindy. She bought the tickets as a birthday gift for me. She found out that night that she loved his music as well, unlike the Herbie Hancock concert I took her to. (I still think she is the one who pulled the fire alarm that cut Herbie’s concert short)
The quartet that I first listened to was Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright. Of that group, only Wright is still alive. I’ll be listening to the music they made for as long as I can hear. It is simply great music.