Dave Brubeck, December 6, 1920 - December 5, 2012


Dave Brubeck died of heart failure today, one day before his 92nd birthday. He led a long, fruitful, and lauded life; he remained active as a performer until last year. He was iconic even to non-jazz fans, and on news of his passing, Facebook erupted in postings of "Take Five." But that track was actually written by the Dave Brubeck Quartet's longtime alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond. Not that there's anything wrong with that response; it was by far the most famous of the tracks associated with Brubeck, since it was the featured track of his best-selling 1959 album, Time Out (I wrote about at length on its 50th anniversary three years ago). But it made me decide that, rather than write a standard obituary or an album-by-album look at his recording career, I would instead post my favorite songs written by Dave Brubeck.

 And, of course, this way we also get to hear how fine and original a pianist he was as well. I have not pondered the order of this list all that carefully, but the first song is very definitely my favorite. After that come his three most famous pieces, all considered standards, and then an assortment of tunes showing two sides of his writing: his interest in non-4/4 meters, and his fetching melodicism.

"Koto Song"

"Blue Rondo a la Turk"

"In Your Own Sweet Way"

"The Duke"

"It's a Raggy Waltz"

"Unsquare Dance"

"Brandenburg Gate"

"Summer Song"

"Le Souk" (co-written with Desmond)

"Three to Get Ready"

And if you still want to hear "Take Five," well, it leads off this 1961 TV program:

 - Steve Holtje


Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based composer, poet, and editor. His song cycle setting five of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach can be heard here.