Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thanking God for Dave Brubeck

News comes today of the death of Joe Morello, the drummer for the Dave Brubeck Quartet. It's been a long time since I've thought about Brubeck. It's hard for anyone born before 1935 or after 1945 to realize that "cool jazz" once dominated the campuses as rock has ever since. "Jazz Goes to College" was on every dorm room record player (those antediluvian contraptions) in the USA in the mid-50s...and then along came Elvis and the brief reign was over. It is remarkable how quickly Brubeck's ascendancy came to an end (along with that of Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and others). He continued as a serious musician for decades, but the heyday of cool jazz lasted only a few years.

It was wonderful music and it still haunts me, but it's Brubeck as an exemplar that should be especially remembered. His Wikipedia entry tells how, back in the segregated fifties and sixties, he refused to play in venues where his black bassist, Eugene Wright, would not have been readily welcomed. He became a Catholic and wrote much serious sacred music, winning the distinguished Laetare Award from Notre Dame. He is still alive and active in his 90s, the recipient of many important medals and honors. Look him up--you'll be glad you did. And here is today's obituary for Joe Morello: