Dave Brubeck, Nears 90, Driven by Passion for Rhythm: Interview

Nonagenarians just aren’t what they used to be.

The start of one’s 10th decade used to be a moment for seriously slowing down. The great pianist, composer and bandleader Dave Brubeck, who celebrates his 90th birthday on Dec. 6, has marked the occasion by playing a short season at the Blue Note club in New York, and winning the poll in Downbeat magazine for “Jazz Group of the Year.”

“Isn’t that something?” he exclaimed when I talked to him last week. This must be a record: It’s 60 years since Brubeck and his band first won a Downbeat Poll. What’s his secret? He obviously just loves playing music. That’s clear from the BBC Arena documentary, “In His Own Sweet Way,” coproduced by Clint Eastwood (broadcast tonight on BBC Four. Jamie Cullum’s Radio 2 show features an interview with Brubeck on Dec. 7.)

“The worst thing about the life of a jazz musician on the road is getting to the gig,” Brubeck says in the phone interview. “Once you’re there and playing, it’s marvelous. I played two concerts last weekend, and they both went wonderfully. I hadn’t played for three months with my group. It was the greatest feeling to be back.”

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