In a career that has spanned more than six decades, his experiments with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and distinctive harmonies remain hallmarks of a unique musical style unfazed by fad and fashion.
Working his way through school as a pianist in local clubs, he became increasingly involved in jazz, and decided to switch his major to music. After graduating with a bachelor of music degree in 1942, he married Lola Whitlock, who was a fellow student at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and enlisted in the Army. While serving in Europe under General Patton, he led an integrated GI jazz band. After his discharge in 1946, he began his studies at Mills College with French composer, Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to introduce jazz elements into his classical compositions. This led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet that included Paul Desmond, Cal Tjader and Bill Smith. In 1951 Brubeck established the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. This historic collaboration lasted seventeen years, and even after the dissolution of the “classic” Quartet, Brubeck and Desmond frequently performed together.
In 1958 the Quartet performed in Europe for the first time and toured Poland and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department. This led to the introduction of music from other cultures into the Quartet’s repertoire. Then, in 1959 the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded an experiment in time signatures, ‘Time Out' To everyone’s surprise, the album sold over a million copies, and Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk based on a Turkish folk rhythm and Paul Desmond’s Take Five began to appear on jukeboxes throughout the world.
In the mid Seventies Brubeck performed with three of his musical sons, Darius, Chris and Dan.
Throughout his career Brubeck has continued to experiment with interweaving jazz and classical music. He has composed ballet suites, for a string quartet, for chamber ensembles, pieces for solo and duo-piano, violin solos, orchestral works and large-scale works for chorus and orchestra, most notably a mass ‘To Hope! A Celebration’, and more recently "Brubeck meets Bach".
While increasingly active as a composer, Brubeck has remained a leading figure in the jazz mainstream, appearing at jazz festivals, recording and touring internationally with today’s version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Co-published with Valentine Music Ltd.