A much-revered icon of jazz, Dave Brubeck, at seventy-five years of age, is still composing, recording, touring, and performing. He is, as Doug Ramsey calls him, "one of the most celebrated and successful jazz musicians of all time." It's About Time, Fred Hall's biography, explores the many influences on Brubeck's life and music: his youth on a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras; a stint in Europe with Patton's army during World War II; the development of the West Coast jazz scene and the rise of the Dave Brubeck Quartet; musical relationships with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello, and many more jazz greats; his phenomenal experiments with polytonality and polyrhythm; his fifty-three-year marriage to Iola, manager, collaborator, and mother of their six children; and important career breakthroughs, such as the first-ever million-selling jazz single, "Take Five." Including an annotated discography, It's About Time is much more than an upbeat examination of the Brubeck phenomenon. It is also a penetrating view of the culture, the music, the musicians, the recording industry, and race relations of the country and the century that gave birth to jazz.
Known for his fertile composing, frenetic time signatures and yen for experimentation, jazz artist Brubeck (now 75) has nonetheless had an upward struggle. His stylings were not in keeping with the times, and author Hall does a fine job of portraying Brubeck's plod from gig to gig in order to keep his ever-growing family afloat. Hall also nicely records Brubeck's struggles to ``get his still evolving, polytonal, polyrhythm but not-bop music accepted in the jazz community and to make it part of the American musical mainstream.'' Brubeck's true artistry took some time to reach public recognition, and Hall takes the reader on a somewhat convoluted journey from the pianist's days as ``a lanky, bright-eyed sixteen year old'' cowboy to days spent composing grand works with biblical themes. Hall introduces quite a menagerie of associates and hangers-on, such as Paul Desmond, Brubeck's musical partner who inexplicably deserted him at the most inopportune times, and eldest son Darius, a musical prodigy in his own right. But the biography is arranged by topic, not timeline, and so the narrative makes long chronological jumps, particularly in the later chapters. While Hall has an eye for telling detail (Brubeck ate cornflakes and canned peaches for days on end and now can't stand the stuff), he does not have an ear for the revealing quote. Interviews with the artist and his wife fail to make Brubeck's life come alive to the reader. More often than not, the author trafficks in the pedestrian rather than the controversial. Photos. (Jan.)
Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck led a jazz quartet that produced the pop hit "Take Five" and achieved acclaim during the 1950s and 1960s. Hall, a veteran radio broadcaster, writes a fan's account of Brubeck's personal journey from boyhood up through international celebrity. Through interviews with Brubeck and others, we hear tales of "life on the road," meet Bru's peers, and learn something about his music, mostly about his later orchestral works. Questions about Brubeck's entire musical corpus and its place in jazz are better answered in Ilse Storb's Dave Brubeck: Improvisations and Compositions (Peter Lang, 1994). Hall's discography lists American-issued recordings but excludes the many European releases and reissues. Appropriate for general audiences.-Paul Baker, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison