Dave Van Kriedt

David Van Kriedt

Composer; Saxophonist & Music Teacher.

Born: June 19th.1922 - Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

Died: September 29th.1994 - Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

Whilst Dave Brubeck (b.1920) and Paul Desmond (b.1924 d.1977), became world Jazz celebrities, the musician responsible for establishing one of the most successful partnerships in Jazz was American Tenor Saxophonist, Composer & Arranger David Van Kriedt.


Dave grew up in the Fillmore district of San Francisco and studied Flute and Clarinet in High School. One of his early teachers was Bob Barfield who played in Lionel Hampton's Band. Dave met Dave Brubeck (who was one year Van Kriedt's senior), at a rehearsal for Brubeck's Big Band in Lake Tahoe, California.

Van Kriedt introduced himself to Brubeck explaining that he played Tenor Saxophone and Brubeck invited him to play. They both hit it off very well at that initial rehearsal before going their separate paths, Brubeck going back home to School in Stockton, and Van Kriedt back home to San Francisco.

Bob Skinner a friend of Brubeck, told him there was a Tenor player playing at a "Joint Job" in Oakland that he would like Brubeck to hear, so Brubeck drove down about eighty miles to Oakland to find the Tenor player was Dave Van Kriedt. Skinner intended returning to Stockton with Brubeck that night when Van Kriedt said he wanted to join them as the young eighteen year old found their lifestyle very exciting and interesting.

While attending the College of the Pacific in Stockton in 1940, Van Kriedt and Brubeck roomed together at a dismal place called "The Bomb Shelter" where they jammed all the time. Brubeck recalls the piano they had at the time had been through the Fire and Earthquake in San Francisco and was all blistered on the side. They had to pay $5.00 to have it carted away when they left.

During World War II, both Van Kriedt and Paul Desmond were in the U. S. Army band stationed at The Presidio in San Francisco. Van Kriedt invited Brubeck who was in the U.S. Infantry stationed in the desert south of Los Angeles, to join their Army band. Brubeck recalls he auditioned for Van Kriedt's band but didn't get into the band as they thought he was a little strange! These true words were taken from a spoken commentary on a tape from Dave Brubeck in 1987.


Dave spent three years at Mills College in San Francisco studying composition with Darius Milhaud 1892 to 1974, and formed with fellow students "The Jazz Workshop Ensemble". Later they became known as The Eight and subsequently the Dave Brubeck Octet. Mills College in 1946 was where eight young music students recorded Dave Brubeck's Curtain Music, the personnel for the Octet was, Brubeck - Piano; Paul Desmond - Alto Saxophone; Dave Van Kriedt - Tenor Saxophone; Bill Smith - Clarinet; Dick Collins - Trumpet; Bob Collins - Trombone; Jack Weeks - Bass; Cal Tjader - Drums.

The Octet played only a few concerts in three years as club owners were scared by the advanced non-commercial music. In three years at both San Francisco State and Mills College, Dave became proficient in voice and practically every instrument. In 1950 with the same personnel, The Octet recorded an album that today is as fresh and exciting to hear as it was then. Van Kriedt was the most influential contributor to The Octet, both composing the majority of originals and arranging the standards for it. In fact in 1951 when Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky was lecturing at U.C.L.A., he used Dave's composition "Fugue on Bop Themes" to demonstrate to students the true art of counterpoint.

In 1950 Van Kriedt, Brubeck and wife Iola and their sons Cal Tjader; Jack Weeks (bassist), all relocated to Honolulu for sometime before going their own separate once again.

In 1948 while still a Mills College student, Dave ventured to France where he recorded with Kenny Clarke's Be Bop Minstrels. The music on this recording was listed under best album of the year. Dave fitted in very well with the exciting Paris Jazz scene, and had the opportunity to jam with Guitarist Django Reinhardt. Whilst in Europe, Dave traveled to Norway to meet some family members and learnt that his maternal Grandfather, Ollie Clausen, an Organist had given music lessons to none other than Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907). Returning to Mills College in 1952 as an outstanding academic, Dave won first prize in Graduate Composition.


In 1955 Dave joined The Stan Kenton band on Tenor Saxophone and during his nine months with the band recorded one of Kenton's most definitive albums "Contemporary Concerts", featuring arrangements by Bill Holman and one by Gerry Mulligan. In this band Van Kriedt was fortunate to play with renowned musicians as Bill Perkins - Tenor; Lennie Niehaus and Charlie Mariano - both Alto; Don Davidson - Baritone; Carl Fontana - Bob Fitzpatrick - Kent Larson - Gus Chappell - Don Kelly -Trombones; Ed Leddy - Bobby Clark - Al Porcino - Sam Noto - Stu Williamson - Trumpets; Ralph Blaze-Guitar; Max Bennett - Bass and Mel Lewis - Drums. The album was recorded at Universal Studios in Chicago on July 22 1955. Dave toured throughout the United States and Canada and was the featured Arranger with the Band, appearing at such great jazz clubs as the Blue Note in Chicago and Birdland in New York City.

Touring and recording with Stan Kenton was a highly rewarding and exciting experience for Dave, but craving a domestic balance, resumed family life with wife Margot and their five children in Los Angeles. Dave Disappeared behind academic walls to teach and compose for some years simultaneously continued playing Jazz on the West coast. For some time he operated his own Jazz Club in Vallejo, California.


The 1957 Dave Brubeck's album REUNION was a Quintet session featuring eight Van Kriedt compositions.

Strolling, Shouts, Prelude, Divertimento, Chorale, Leo's Place, Darien Mode and Pieta. Reunion features a full-voiced Van Kriedt on Tenor (with hand towel in sax bell, to mute his huge sound). Paul Desmond - Alto; Brubeck - Piano; Norman Bates - Bass and Joe Morello - Drums. Reunion displays Van Kriedt's great skills both as soloist and composer. From here till 1974 is unknown to me. I will continue my story from this point.


I was working in the early nineteen seventies at a warehouse on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, which no longer exists, however, Hugh Bowers, who was the painting expert at the warehouse, informed me that there was a guy living on the Coast who had played with Brubeck and Stan Kenton. Hugh had a son Peter, who was a sax player in the R.A.N. Band and was always interested in what I was up to and where I was playing. I had returned to Tasmania to visit my Brother Ken and his family and never did get to meet Dave on the Gold Coast. It was not until October 1974 that I finally got to meet Dave and Margot at a hotel in Newcastle, where Dave was playing with a Dixie type band called The HARBOURSIDE SIX. Dave later played with a local Rock group called DANIEL at the same venue. Dave was strong looking, tall with long hair and wore glasses, and after I introduced myself, he invited me to celebrate their 25TH wedding anniversary with himself and Margot.

After that initial meeting, I returned to the Gold Coast and in December 1974, I relocated to Rockhampton, Australia, to manage Palings Music Store. Soon after my arrival, Dave walked into the store and informed me he had taken up a music teaching position at the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, in Rockhampton.

Dave fitted perfectly into academic and social life of Rockhampton. I became his music student and we formed a Jazz combo and played everywhere, for anyone who wanted to here great Jazz. In his two years in Central Queensland we performed A.B.C. broadcasts, Jazz evenings, Duos, and a 1975 Winter Jam. When Dave left Rockhampton, we managed to stay in contact as much as we could.

During his time in Rockhampton Dave returned to California to visit his two daughters Karen and Denise, and Paul Desmond for the last time before his death of Lung Cancer on May 30th.1977. After leaving Rockhampton in late 1977, Dave returned to his home in Stockton - Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, and taught many talented musicians including Trumpeter Warrick Alder and continued playing in both Newcastle and Sydney.

I meanwhile returned to live in Brisbane in 1992, when I received a surprise call from David, to say he and Margot had recently returned to Australia after spending sometime in the United States. David then informed me he had Prostate Cancer. We had lengthy conversations many times with regards to his condition. I found a great strength within him that I always knew he possessed. Dave received all the treatment available to him and for a period of time, he was in remission. He surely was a music legend and had a monumental influence on everyone who had the great pleasure of knowing him. He was certainly a tremendous mentor and inspiration to me, and will always be remembered in the highest esteem by me.

Phil Wright
March 30, 2004