Brubeck & Garner – Two Of The Greatest Jazz Pianists
This is part two of the post on 7 great piano players of jazz.
Dave Brubeck (b. Dec. 6, 1920, d. Dec. 5, 2012)
Dave Brubeck is perhaps best known for his television and movie scores, and is certainly considered on the the greatest jazz pianists. His roots are in and with jazz piano, where he perfected his unique style of odd meters and rhythms. Brubeck was nearly expelled from college at the University of the Pacific when one of his professors discovered that he could not read music. Several of his professors came forward, arguing that his ability with counterpoint and harmony more than compensated. The college was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and agreed to let Brubeck graduate only after he had promised never to teach piano. After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in Europe in the Third Army. He volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show and was such a hit that he was spared from combat service and ordered to form a band. He created one of the U.S. armed forces’ first racially integrated bands. While serving in the military, Brubeck met Paul Desmond, who was to become the sax man in the Dave Brubeck Quartet, in early 1944. Dave returned to college after serving nearly four years in the army, this time attending Mills College in Oakland. He studied under the French classical composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration.
Even many non-musicians are familiar with Brubeck’s “Take Five,” written by Brubeck’s musical partner, Paul Desmond. The recording was the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies.
Brubeck was designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1986, and presented with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2009. He died in Dec. 2012.
Suggested Recordings: Brubeck Plays Brubeck available from Amazon on audio CD. This is Dave Brubeck on piano, alone. A quintessential recording of his quartet, including “Take Five” would be Time Out, also available from Amazon.
Erroll Garner (b. Jun 15, 1921, d. Jan. 2, 1977)
Erroll Garner, who hailed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was unique in the sense that he was entirely self-taught. He was influenced, as were many early jazz piano greats, by the music of Fats Waller.
Garner sat in for Art Tatum in Tatum’s trio in 1945 and later formed his own group. His Concert by the Sea album, recorded in 1958, is one of the best-selling albums in the history of jazz.
Erroll Garner, however, will always and forever be known as the composer of the jazz standard, “Misty.”
Suggested Recordings: Concert by the Sea available from Amazon on audio CD. For”Misty,” played by Garner, listen to Original Misty, also available from Amazon.
This article will be continued on the next post.
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