Dave Brubeck, Legendary Jazz Pianist And Composer Of 'Take Five,' Dies At 91

on December 05 2012 1:40 PM

Dave Brubeck, the legendary jazz pianist and composer whose band, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, rose to fame with hits like “Take Five,” died on Wednesday at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He would have been 92 Thursday.

The cause of Brubeck’s death was labeled heart failure, reported the Associated Press.  Brubeck’s manager, Russell Gloyd, said that he had been in the car with his son, on his way to “a regular treatment with his cardiologist,” when his heart failed.

The son of a cattle rancher, Brubeck grew up listening to classical music all throughout his childhood at the insistence of his mother, a classically trained pianist who was a proponent of prenatal music stimulation.

"She practiced all through her pregnancies," Brubeck told Len Lyons, author of "The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking of Their Lives and Music." "When we were born, we were all put near the piano to listen to her practicing. I heard Chopin, Liszt, Mozart, and Bach from infancy."But despite his mother’s persistent efforts to classically train all of her children, Brubeck was determined to experiment on his own. In part as a result of rebellious attitude, Brubeck gravitated toward jazz, eventually injecting classical elements into the genre to the dismay of many jazz purists.

"There can be little doubt that his original interest in jazz arose as a protest against the idea of playing notes that were written on paper instead of the notes that were in his head," wrote Robert Rice, in a 1961 profile of Brubeck for the New Yorker titled, “The Cleanup Man.”

In 1951, Brubeck founded The Dave Brubeck Quartet, made up for the greatest part of its longevity of himself, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Joe Morello on drums, and Eugene Wright on bass. The group’s 1959 album “Time Out,” featuring Desmond’s original composition “Take Five,” quickly went platinum after its release. During the 1950s and 1960s the quartet became "the world's best-paid, most widely traveled, most highly publicized, and most popular small group," according to Rice. 

Brubeck leaves behind his wife, Iola, five children, grandsons, and a great-granddaughter.

View the video below to watch Brubeck performing “Take Five” on piano in Germany in 1966.

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