Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, whose choice of novel rhythms, classical structures and brilliant sidemen made him a towering figure in modern jazz, has died at the age of 91, his longtime manager and producer Russell Gloyd said on Wednesday.
Brubeck died of heart failure on Wednesday morning after he fell ill on his way to a regular medical exam at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., a day short of his 92nd birthday, Gloyd said.
His Dave Brubeck Quartet put out one of the best selling jazz songs of all time: Take Five, composed by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Like many of the group’s works, it had an unusual beat — 5/4 time as opposed to the usual 4/4.
Take Five was the first million-selling jazz single.
Brubeck was born in Concord, Calif., on Dec. 6, 1920. His father was a rancher and as a teenager Brubeck was a skilled cowboy. But his mother, a music teacher who had five pianos in the house, saw that he took up piano at age 5.
At the College of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., he planned to be a veterinarian, but within a year he was majoring in music and playing jazz in nightclubs. Brubeck later met the co-director of a weekly campus radio show, Iola Marie Whitlock, and they eventually married.
In February 1989, Brubeck, who had a history of heart problems, underwent triple-bypass surgery but kept playing. Well into his 80s, he still put on some 80 shows a year. He had a pacemaker implanted in October 2010 and performed at the Toronto Jazz Festival last year.
Brubeck and his wife, who also was his agent and lyricist, had two other sons, Matthew, a cellist, and Michael, and a daughter, Catherine. The couple lived in Wilton, Conn.
—With files from CityNews.ca