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December 5th, 2012 / 4:18 pm
Massive People

DIED: Dave Brubeck

On May 9, 1961*, Iola Brubeck gave birth to a boy. He was given the name Charles Matthew.

The boy’s father, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck—who died today of heart failure on the way to a cardiology appointment and was a day shy of his 92nd birthday—wrote and recorded a song with his quartet called “Charles Matthew Hallelujah.”

Here’s the story I was told by a music teacher: Embedded in the song’s sections—there are two distinct sections—are, first, the words “Charles Matthew!” And then the follow-up “Hallelujah!” Follow Paul Desmond’s alto sax to hear them. Note that there seems to be an extra syllable in “Charles Matthew!” I always sing “Cha-earls Matthew!” when I sing along. The second section, a rolling sort of piano beginning at the 1:30 mark, has “I have a brand new baby boy, I have a brand new baby boy, I have a brand new baby boy, I have a brand new baby boy…” in it. The second and following “I have a brand new baby boy”s all start their “I”s on that stalled, heavy chord so the “I” takes a longer time to say. (Like Brubeck, the one who had the brand new baby boy is, in emphasizing the “I,” bragging a little. Or a lot.)

“Charles Matthew Hallelujah” is one of my favorite songs because it’s a hell of a birthday present. And a hell of a precise artistic statement about pure joy. It’s like the air in a balloon filled to capacity. The rubber skin is the constraint of time signature and the limitations of the instruments. But the air is stretching it as out as far as it will stretch.

Brubeck is nothing but all right in my book. RIP.

* A mystery: Wikipedia & IMDB say Charles Matthew was born on May 9, 1961. Wikipedia also says Time Further Out—the album “Charles Matthew Hallelujah” appears on—was “recorded” on May 3, 1961. So, six days before the birth of Charles Matthew. is Wikipedia referring to the first day of recording? Was it recorded all in one day, and Brubeck was anticipating the birth of a son? As the story was told to me, the song was recorded on the day of or the day after his birth.

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