Classic Downbeat interview with Dave Brubeck from 1957

Dave Brubeck: “They Said I Was Too Far Out”
by Ralph Gleason — 8/8/1957


David Warren Brubeck, at the age of 36, is a successful man in his chosen profession, a man who has designed his life to suit his own taste, and despite the rigors of a high-pressure business, manages to spend more time at home with his wife and five children than can almost anyone in a comparable position.

During the year 1956, Brubeck spent only 180 days on the road. He frequently flew back to Oakland, Calif., for a week with his family. Perhaps it was for only one or two days. And during the time he was off the road, much of it was devoted to digging and raking and shoveling on the mountaintop he owns in the residential district of Oakland.

He was born in 1920 in Concord, Calif., a small town inland about 30 miles from San Francisco. His father was a cattleman, buyer of herd beef and manager of cattle ranches. His mother was the daughter of a stage coach operator who ran a regular passenger and mail coach from Concord over the hills to Oakland.

Mrs. Brubeck, however, was an unusual woman. In a society where—except for those who had struck it rich—there was little opportunity to inquire into the arts because the business of scraping out a living was too time-consuming, she managed to become a musician and even in later years, after her children were reared, returned to college and resumed her studies.

The Brubecks moved from Concord when Dave was 8 to a ranch in Ione, a California mountain town, where his father had been made manager of a ranch, but Dave’s memories of the Concord home are still vivid:

“I remember that house yet. It was built strictly for music. Pianos were in four different rooms there, and they were going all day long. My mother was teaching or my brothers were practicing. The first thing I heard in the morning was her teacher or them practicing. And the last thing at night. We didn’t even have a radio in Concord.”

Dave’s mother was his first, and actually his only, teacher of any importance until he studied with Darius Milhaud, and she gave Dave his first piano lessons.

“It was apparent right from the beginning,” he says, “that I would be a composer. I was always improvising from the time I was 4 and 5. And I refused to study! My mother saw this and taught me completely different from Howard, who is about as schooled a musician as I can think of. She didn’t force me to practice, and she didn’t force me to play serious music, but she gave me a lot of theory, ear training, harmony. From the time I was very small, it was impossible to make me play any of the classical pieces except when I’d sit down and play them by ear. So I developed differently from my brothers.”

Read the whole interview from DownBeat by clicking here…………..


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