The Performance Style of Dave Brubeck

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The performance style of Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck’s unique performance style is characterized primarily by his use of polytonality, polyrhythm, and immense amounts of improvisation. His style grew from his upbringing and as he put it, “different approach to all of the normal things”. By no means did Dave take the normal approach; he made it all the way threw the conservatory with out being able to read the piano music he was playing. His ability to think on the spot and his amazing ear took jazz to the next level. He took jazz to a world of difficult technicality and created sounds with depth that amazed all who had the opportunity to listen to him. Brubeck once stated, “And there is a time where you can be beyond yourself. You can be better than your technique. You can be better than most of your usual ideas. And this is a whole other category that you can get into”-Dave Brubeck. Brubeck always went above and beyond, breaking convention. It is this unconventional approach that defined Dave Brubeck’s Style. Polytonality as Dave described it, “(is) using multiple key centers at the same time.” He was known for incorporating this technique in to many of his performances, although he admits to not knowing that he is doing it at the time. He naturally did things that were way ahead of his time. His compositions were known to use polytonality although Dave probably would not play them as he had notated them on the page. In the Dave Brubeck Oral History Project he describes a polytonal piece; “One of the early pieces I wrote in 1946 as a student with Darius Milhaud, had three different clefs instead of two clefs treble, treble, bass rather then treble clef, bass clef. And, I'd be playing a swing bass in this hand in one key, and then adding on these other things in other keys.” The use of this technique is very aptly described by Mark McFarland who wrote; “Brubeck's use of polytonality helps to project a general decrease or increase in relative dissonance,...
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