Classic jazzman Dave Brubeck jams in San Diego

Dave Brubeck is an American music icon.

The life of Brubeck is a long and amazing journey. As a teenager in the 1930s, Brubeck started to play professionally in small dance clubs. While in college, he abandoned the idea of becoming a veterinarian and pursued music. Brubeck served under General Patton in World War II, and after he was discharged in 1946, he continued his musical journey.

He formed his trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty in 1949 and then added saxophonist Paul Demond in 1951. This was the beginning of an incredible musical partnership with Desmond that yielded dozens of hits that are classics today.

Brubeck and Desmond stepped away from common 4/4 time and dived into deeper waters with 9/8 time signatures and influences from African folk music and even Turkish folk rhythms.

With Desmond came the hit “”Take Five,”” which is a familiar song that has made appearances in television commercials and has been a constant standard in jazz clubs around town.

Brubeck also toured with the likes of Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. As a musical innovator, Brubeck also performed and recorded with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Brubeck is also socially progressive. He was insistent on adding an African-American bassist Eugene Wright to the band in the early 1960s, which cost him shows in the South.

The president of one college refused to let the band play in the midst of students demanding that they perform. With an intervention by the governor, the band was allowed to play if Wright was hidden backstage. But Brubeck told Wright that his mic was broken and when Wright’s feature solo came up, Brubeck had instructed Wright to play at the very front with Brubeck’s speaking mic.

Brubeck is now graced with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 1999, he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In 1994, he was honored with the National Medal of the Arts from the NEA in a White House ceremony. He has also been awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Even in his mid-70s, Brubeck keeps himself busy. He still composes, records and embarks on international tours. Perhaps there is a fountain of youth hidden within the beautiful rhythms of jazz.

Dave Brubeck and the Dave Brubeck Quartet will be at the Copley Symphony Hall as a part of the Winter Pops Series on Nov. 9 and 10. Look to the Hiatus Calendar on pg. 12 for details on the show.

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