Written by Phin Upham
Dave Brubek, born December 6, 1920, began piano at the age of four. He was a California native, and he showed an early aptitude for music. Within a few years, Brubek had found a spot in local jazz bands by the 1930s. By the time he’d enrolled in college, he’d formed a 12-piece jazz ensemble.
He enjoyed a short stay in the military where he was part of General Patton’s band.
In 1946, Brubek formed an octet with some friends he’d met at Mills College. The band enjoyed a few years of play time together, releasing singles like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Love Walked In.” At the time, the octet gained a small following but stayed largely out of the limelight. Because of Brubek’s death in 2012, there was renewed interest in his earlier recordings and the octet is now getting some decent exposure in the jazz scene.
The octet disbanded in 1949, and Brubek went on to start a trio. They found a following in San Francisco, and Brubek soon made the decision to grow them into a quartet. He finally achieved international popularity by the mid-1950s.
By then, he’d written and performed songs like “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “In Your Own Sweet Way.” He became known for his unconventional use of musical meters, and he was even featured on the cover of Time magazine in November of 1954.
Brubek is also remembered as a talented pianist, saying that the instrument felt like an entire orchestra to play.