Music News

R.I.P. jazz pianist Dave Brubeck

According to his producer, conductor and manager Russell Gloyd, pianist Dave Brubeck, whose Time Out recording was one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, died of heart failure this morning, a day before his 92nd birthday, en route to a regular treatment with his cardiologist.

Although he didn't originally intend to be a musician, Brubeck did receive early classical training from his mother and would later study music in college. He could not read sheet music at the time, but his skills in counterpoint and harmony more than made up for it. While in the Army during World War II, Brubeck formed one the U.S. armed forces' first racially integrated bands.

During his four-year stint in the military, Brubeck met alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who later became part of the Dave Brubeck Quartet when the pianist formed the group in 1951. Eight years later, the four-piece released Time Out, which featured songs in non-common time signatures, like the opener "Blue Rondo à la Turk," which was in 9/8, and "Take Five," which was composed by Desmond in 5/4 time and was the first jazz single to sell a million copies.

Brubeck's gorgeous ballad "In Your Own Sweet Way" became imbedded in the American songbook and was recorded by the likes of Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker and Keith Jarrett. Davis also recorded Brubeck's song "The Duke" on his album Miles Ahead.

After disbanding the quartet in 1967, Brubeck composed more extended orchestral and choral works, and the following year, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra premiered his piece The Light in the Wilderness. Two years later, Brubeck formed a quartet with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. Brubeck would later go on to work with his sons, pianist Darius, bassist Chris, drummer Dan and cellist Matthew.

Two years ago, to commemorate Brubeck's 90th birthday, Bruce Ricker and Clint Eastwood produced the documentary Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way for Turner Movie Classics.

Retired music executive Joe Smith recorded interviews with more than 200 singers, musicians and industry icons, and earlier this year he donated the audio recordings to the Library of Congress. He spoke with Brubeck in 1986, and you can hear part one of the 75 minute conversation here and part two here.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon