`JAZZ isn't dead yet,'' two-fisted piano player Dave Brubeck said recently. ``It's the underpinning of everything in this country. Whether it's a Broadway show, or fusion, or right on through classical music, if it's coming out of the US, it's not going to survive unless it's got some jazz influence.'' Brubeck has been prominent on the jazz scene since the 1940s. His talent as a pianist is legendary. He was also a powerful force for renewed interest in jazz in the '50s and '60s. A Time cover story on the rebirth of jazz in 1954 focused on Brubeck. And he revolutionized the music in 1963 with the wild time signatures on his million-selling album ``Time Out,'' from which emerged the jazz classic ``Take Five,'' written in 5/4 time.
``Jazz stands for freedom,'' says Brubeck. ``It's supposed to be the voice of freedom: Get out there and improvise, and take chances, and don't be a perfectionist - leave that to the classical musicians.''
To some extent, though, Brubeck has joined the classical artists. He studied with French composer Darius Milhaud in 1946. And throughout his career he has been a soloist with symphony orchestras. His sacred choral music has been performed around the world.
Brubeck says he got interested in writing sacred music when he was in the army in World War II.
``I started growing up in a hurry and taking a lot of the philosophy I'd heard from church as a kid a lot more seriously - especially the Ten Commandments - and wondering how `Thou shalt not kill' could be so absolutely ignored. It took me until I was in my 40s to write what I was thinking as a young soldier.''
The work that came out of that thought was the oratorio ``The Light in the Wilderness,'' based on the temptations and teachings of Jesus.
After he played at the Gorbachev-Reagan summit last spring in Moscow, Brubeck was impressed by the progress that has been made toward the Commandment ``Thou shalt not kill.''
``I had the feeling that we're closer. ... Here we are - trying to love our enemies, and look how much has moved in a right direction. Christ [Jesus], being the inspired man that he was, knew that this is the only answer.''