Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck dead at 91

Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:25pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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.

"We play it differently every time we play it," Brubeck told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2005. "So I never get tired of playing it. That's the beauty of jazz."

"Take Five" was the first million-selling jazz single.

Dressed in a suit and horn-rimmed glasses and living a clean-cut lifestyle in the 1950s, Brubeck did not fit the stereotype of a hipster jazzman and his music was not nearly as brooding as that coming from East Coast be-bop players.

Despite his innovative approach, some critics interpreted Brubeck's popularity as a sign of un-coolness, but his fans were undeterred.

Brubeck was born in Concord, California, on December 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.   Continued...

Dave Brubeck is interviewed by Reuters in Monterey, California, September 22, 2007. As golden years at home relaxing with his wife, with whom he just celebrated his 65th anniversary. REUTERS/Kimberly White