Published Dec 05, 2012Legendary jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck died this morning (December 5) of heart failure. He was 91 years old.
News of Brubeck's passing came from his manager Russell Gloyd [via the Associated Press], who explained that the musician died when he was being taken to a cardiology appointment near Hartford, CN, by his son Darius. Brubeck passed away just one day before his 92nd birthday.
Brubeck's music career dates back to the Second World War, where, while drafted in the U.S. army, he had played in a band called the Wolfpack, which was the only racially integrated unit in the military at the time. Upon the pianist's return to the U.S., he recorded albums with an octet and a trio before founding his fabled Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951.
The group's smash 1959 LP Time Out features the band's signature tune "Take Five," performed in a jumpy 5/4 rhythm, and was the first ever jazz album to sell over a million copies. It is still one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. The album also featured the 9/8-timed, piano-and-saxophone "Blue Rondo à la Turk," a reworking of Mozart's "Blue Rondo."
"When you start out with goals — mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically — you never exhaust that," Brubeck had told AP in 1995. "I started doing that in the 1940s. It's still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements."
Brubeck's career lasted well into his later years, with highlights including a 1988 performance in Moscow for former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which was arranged by then-U.S. president Ronal Reagan. In 2006, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Brubeck was still touring in 2009, when he was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.
Brubeck is survived by six children — five sons and a daughter — and his wife Iola.