Brubeck joined the Army as an infantry man, but ended up leading the semi-official Wolf Pack band attached to Gen. George S. Patton’s army. They played popular standards as well as some of his first original jazz tunes, including “We Crossed the Rhine,” based on the rhythm of trucks hitting the metal pontoon bridges as the entered Germany.
His band, which was one of the first integrated units in the then-segregated Army, reopened the Opera House in Nuremberg, the site of mass rallies organized by the Nazis, who had banned jazz.
After his discharge, he enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, Calif. That’s where he formed an octet, including Desmond on alto sax, Dave van Kreidt on tenor sax, Cal Tjader on drums and Bill Smith on clarinet. The group played Brubeck originals and standards by other composers. Their ground breaking album “Dave Brubeck Octet” was recorded in 1946.
In 1949, Brubeck with Tjader and bassist Ron Crotty, both fellow octet members, formed a more commercially viable trio and cut their first records, which gained a national audience. After surviving a near-fatal diving accident in 1951, Brubeck formed a quartet by adding Desmond.
Brubeck dissolved his classic quartet in 1967, but soon formed another group and continued playing and touring with various musicians.
In a 2010 interview, Brubeck envisioned an afterlife where he’d again see his family and jazz friends, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Art Tatum.
“If there’s a heaven, let it be a good place for all of us to jam together and have a wonderful, wonderful musical experience,” Brubeck said.