Though dissed by jazz's critical establishment for the unforgivable crime of popularity, pianist/composer Dave Brubeck's Quartet remains one of the pivotal bands in the music's history. The DBQ is the most famous and successful exponent of one of the most maligned movements in the genre, known alternately as the "West Coast sound" and "the Cool School" -- scorned because of the emerging racial divide in 1950s jazz (some West Coast Cool cats were, like, white) and because, as with hip hop, there was a coastal schism. Further, while demonstrative East Coast (and predominantly African-American) hard bop raged, Brubeck's approach was marked by deceptively light lyricism and brainy, witty urbanity. His style, derided by some as heavy-handed, was a precursor to that of the heavily percussive, freer key-crackers of the '60s (Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner). As a composer, Brubeck was one of the first to consciously (and subtly) incorporate influences from non-Western cultures. Alto saxophonist and frequent DBQ composer Paul Desmond had a lithe, sleek, blues-informed tone that was martini-dry (as it was then called) when most altoists were under the sway of Charlie Parker. Drummer Joe Morello employed crisp polyrhythms (literally, more than one rhythm at once) long before it became commonplace; Eugene Wright played rock-solid, buoyant bass. Brubeck -- who studied at Mills College in Oakland -- achieved worldwide popularity and produced a durable body of work, his compositions covered by such luminaries as Miles Davis, avant-jazz icon Anthony Braxton (who also recorded with Brubeck), fellow Stockton residents Pavement, and prog-rock kings Emerson, Lake & Palmer. What's more, his group... More >>>