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PBS to Air Brubeck Documentary in December

Today’s revolutionaries become tomorrow’s elder statesmen, and one of the most obvious examples of this transformation in the jazz world is Dave Brubeck. It seems inconceivable now that his polyrhythms and polytonality ever drew scorn from musicians and critics, as major festivals give him top billing and major labels do his bidding. Pulitzer Prize-winning producer and author Hedrick Smith follows this transformation in Rediscovering Dave Brubeck…with Hedrick Smith, the first documentary about Brubeck, which premieres on PBS at 10 pm on Sun., Dec. 16.

The documentary interweaves interviews with producer George Wein, critics Stanley Crouch, Ira Gitler and Ted Gioia, and musicians Eugene Wright and Joe Morello; home-movie footage of Brubeck’s childhood on a California ranch; later films captured on Brubeck’s European tours of the 1960s; backstage footage from a Berlin concert and from rehearsals for an 80th-birthday celebration with the London Symphony Orchestra; and a disquisition from Brubeck himself on the genesis and structure of his most famous number, “Take Five.”

Discussing Brubeck’s life requires addressing a number of issues, including the role of race in jazz, the shift in the nature and scope of jazz’s popularity, musical innovation and traditionalism, and how you can play a reasonable melody in 7/4 time. Hedrick Smith has produced documentaries on such heavyweight topics as multinational capitalism, U.S.-Russian relations, and economic restructuring. He has also produced an acclaimed documentary on Duke Ellington’s Washington, so he may well do justice to Brubeck’s music.

Originally Published