The jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as Take Five caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.
Californian-born, Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all of American jazz since the second world war. He formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, and his hypnotically catchy Take Five – written by his gifted saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1959 – was the first jazz instrumental to sell one million copies.
Brubeck was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine, on 8 November 1954, and helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and 60s club jazz. The seminal album Time Out, which the quartet released in 1959, is still among the bestselling jazz albums of all time.
Brubeck first learned classical piano from his mother, and later studied with the composer Darius Milhaud. His classical leanings gave him a taste for irregular time signatures, such as 5/4 and 9/8, and structures including rondos and fugues, which are not usually used in jazz.
“When you start out with goals – mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically – you never exhaust that,” Brubeck said in 1995. “I started doing that in the 1940s. It’s still a challenge.”
The rarest of phenomena in the jazz world, a household name, Brubeck enjoyed a six-decade career of astonishing productivity.
He died on Wednesday morning of heart failure after being taken ill while on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, his manager Russell Gloyd said. Brubeck would have turned 92 on Thursday.
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