RIP Jazz Pianist Dave Brubeck at 91

Picture of Dave Brubeck from the 1984 JVC Newport Jazz Festival, taken by my friend Jeff.

Chances are you know the song ‘Take Five’. You might not immediately call it to mind, but when you check out the video below you are almost certain to say ‘oh yeah, THAT song!’. Congratulations – you have absorbed a lesson on extended harmonies and advanced time signatures!

Brubeck was a major figure in jazz and music for several reasons:
– He brought jazz to academia at a time when only classical music was studied, and moreover gave students something to think about and study!
– He produced the first million-selling jazz single!
– He released the first popular song with non-standard time signature.
– He was a pioneer in using a ‘mixed race’ band and protected the rights of his musicians.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Dave Brubeck, a jazz musician who attained pop-star acclaim with recordings such as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” died Wednesday morning at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., said his longtime manager-producer-conductor Russell Gloyd.

Brubeck was one day short of his 92nd birthday. He died of heart failure, en route to “a regular treatment with his cardiologist,” said Gloyd.

I was very fortunate to have seen Brubeck twice during the 80s, and even then he was an ‘elder statesman’ but full of life and energy. The quartet I saw wasn’t up to the par of the classic quartet from the late 50s and 60s era, but Brubeck was in complete control and excellent as an artist and performer.

He is survived by his wife Iola, four sons and a daughter, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Let’s remember him by enjoying a live performance of the classic ‘Take Five’.

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