PERFORMING ARTS

Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time

Da Capo: Perseus. Feb. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780306921643. $30. MUSIC
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In 2003, music journalist and composer Clark followed the Dave Brubeck Quartet for 10 days on a tour through Britain. More than 15 years later, Clark relies on his interviews with Dave Brubeck (1920–2012) and his bandmates, as well as meticulous research, to pen a comprehensive, admiring biography of the jazz piano great, starting with Brubeck’s 1953 concert tour with headliner Charlie Parker. The author turns technical in places, discussing how Brubeck balanced two goals—composition and improvisation—and how he relied on counterpoint and polytonality, which he learned from classical composer Darius Milhaud. Clark also covers Brubeck’s classically oriented octet and the formation of his trio and then quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond in the early 1950s. Brubeck enjoyed mega-success with the innovative rhythms of Time Out and “Take Five,” embarked on a State Department–sponsored tour of Eurasia in 1958, and took a courageous stand against racial discrimination during the civil rights era. The author concludes by examining the pianist’s more musically eclectic later years.
VERDICT Though needlessly skipping around the Brubeck chronology, Clark offers a rock-solid biography of a musical legend that will appeal to jazz fans and expands on works such as Fred M. Hall’s It’s About Time.

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