Ben Ratliff wrote a great obit for the NYTimes, and the mainstream media is covering his death as well; I’ll be brief.
I can’t remember when I first heard “Time Out” because it seems that its existence was always a given. My guess is that I was still in middle-school, which was early enough for me to be pretty much blown away.
Encounters with Brubeck’s music were relatively rare after that. He played at Oberlin when I was still in Cleveland, but I didn’t end up making the drive. My drum teacher had studied with Joe Morello–the drummer on “Time Out” and a significant figure in our universe–who we lost in 2011. I did have the really fun opportunity to play “Blue Rondo”, which apparently is a significant challenge on the piano.
By all accounts Brubeck was insanely active all the way until his death. I have read about the classical writing he did, but the most I heard was a jazz festival performance from 2010. I didn’t like the sax player he had been touring with, so I didn’t give it much of a chance. But I really did appreciate Brubeck’s paired-down style, even on tunes I pretty much hate listening to (like A-Train).
Certainly a figure to remember, and a truly great public face for improvised music. Below is a video of the “Blue Rondo” performance I did sometime around 2009. Aren’t we all so cute?