Brubeck… on ‘time’ and what Milhaud taught him (interview by Alex Dutilh on France-Musique)

The Open Jazz programme from France-Musique is currently in the middle of a two-week, ten-part epic series marking the centenary of the birth of Dave Brubeck. It includes a fascinating interview from 2009 which is also available in English. (Links Below)


“The time is in your heartbeat. It’s universal. No matter how much situations make us change, this is the one thing we’ve got from the beginning of life until death… (sings / demonstrates “pum, pum pum, pum pum”)… So I wrote a piece using circadian dysrhythmia. My cardiologist gave me a recording of different time-beats and I wrote a piece around that. The feeling of the time going on no matter what happens… Sometimes I was writing in 5 (sings / demonstrates) or in 3 or 7 or 15 in that piece.

But the heart is universal. No matter how bad the world is, this universal thing can bring us together and I think that’s why when I play in India or Turkey or any place the drums are what make the concert get really exciting because it’s universal for people. So that’s time. That rhythm is the first thing and the last thing you hear in your life.”

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“Specifically, he told me, ‘Don’t ever give up on jazz, because it’s the most important thing coming out of the United States, culturally and artistically’. Because I told him I wanted to be a composer. He said, ‘Alright, be a composer, but use what is your national almost folk music. Bartok used Hungarian music, Stravinsky used Russian music, I used French and Brazilian music, and remember, all through history folk themes were in classical music too, and you have all these themes coming out of you that are jazz and you should develop them in your classical writing’. That’s the most important thing he told me, was ‘never give up on jazz’.

He said, ‘You can go any place in the world if there’s a piano, you will do fine. As teachers, so many people get bogged down in teaching and all the politics that go with teaching and quit writing’. He’d say, ‘You be free. Travel the world and keep your ears open’ […] and he named a whole bunch of things where he said ‘you don’t realise how important jazz is, because it’s freeing. Europe has gone about as far as it can go and needs fresh music to draw on and this is what they’re drawing on’. […] At first I didn’t have enough knowledge to know what he was specifically talking about but he said, ‘It’s the most important thing coming out of the United States’.”

With thanks to Alex Dutilh and Leah Williams

LINKS: To hear the full interview in English, follow THIS LINK and find the following text: “À ÉCOUTER / Dave Brubeck: interview intégrale en VO”.
Landing Page for Open Jazz
First episode from 21 December
The series continues until 1 January 2021, and the final episode will be a concert by the Brubeck quartet recorded in Stockholm in 2004

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