Jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck died this morning from heart failure in Norwalk, Conn. while on his way to a regularly scheduled cardiology appointment. He was 91, just one day shy of his 92nd birthday.
Over the course of his prolific career, Brubeck redefined jazz norms with his unique blend of traditional influences and progressive improvisation, particularly with time signatures and rhythms. Though he’s most recognized for his composition “Take Five,” Brubeck has an extensive discography that spans more than five decades (in the early 60s, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was releasing as many as four albums a year).
Outside of the jazz rhetoric, Brubeck was firmly opposed to the racial segregation he often faced within the profession for having an integrated band. In 1958 he refused to tour in South Africa after being asked to sign a contract confirming his band would be all white. He canceled other gigs that made similarly bigoted demands.
In 1996, Brubeck received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2009 the Kennedy Center Honors. His last released album, 2011’s Their Last Time Out, fittingly brought his career full circle, as it featured the unreleased set from his final performance with the Quartet in 1967.
Dave Brubeck, “Take Five,” 1966