Remembering Brubeck's Christmas

Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck passed away earlier this week. He was 91 years old. Host Michel Martin revisits Brubeck's conversation about a Christmas he spent as a soldier during World War II.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now, we'd like to take a moment to remember jazz great Dave Brubeck. The pianist and composer died earlier this week. He was just shy of his 92nd birthday. He's remembered for songs like the one you just heard, "In Your Own Sweet Way." The Dave Brubeck Quartet influenced performers all over the world and pushed boundaries by making music that used inventive timing and beats that gave their music a distinct swinging style like in the classic song, "Take Five."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE FIVE")

MARTIN: The saxophonist playing on this recording is Paul Desmond, an original member of Dave Brubeck's quartet. The two met in the Army during World War II. Dave Brubeck served in George Patton's Third Army during that war. Here, he recalls a Christmas memory from that era that stuck with him for the rest of his life.

DAVE BRUBECK: When I was in World War II, I spent a Christmas that, every Christmas, when it comes, I think of how I spent that Christmas. It was in the Battle of the Bulge and we were taking a beating and were surrounded and I could only hear Axis Sally, who was one of Hitler's women that broadcast and she would broadcast some jazz, some classical and, at this period, she did some Christmas and she'd say, come out with your hands up. You're surrounded. And then play a Christmas song and you'd think about all the guys and how we were maybe not going to see another Christmas. And when I think of Christmas, I think of those times when it was so bad for our country and for our troops because we almost lost everything right at Christmastime, but I remember, all of a sudden, the sky cleared up and the airplanes were able to come in and really destroy the advancing German army and how we all jumped up and down and sang and shouted and we knew we were going to live.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was Dave Brubeck remembering his service overseas during World War II. Brubeck died this week at the age of 91. And let's close with his version of "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OH, LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM")

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