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Dave Brubeck, Jazz Icon, Dies at 91

Renowned pianist and composer was best known for "Take Five," "Blue Rondo à la Turk"

Dave Brubeck performing with Wynton Marsalis at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival 2010
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck, one of the most popular and important jazz artists of all time, died this morning, Dec. 5. The pianist and composer, who would have turned 92 tomorrow, suffered heart failure in Norwalk, Conn., on his way to an appointment with his cardiologist; his son Darius was with him at the time.

Brubeck, who lived in Wilton, Conn., is often credited with having brought jazz back to mainstream popularity at a time when the genre’s commercial prospects had begun to dim, with accessible music combining strong melodies, temporal innovation and the crisp, erudite temperament of West Coast jazz. Five of his albums reached the Billboard Top 10 in the late 1950s and early ’60s, and his 1959 recording of “Take Five,” written by the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and played in 5/4 time, was a hit on the pop charts. Appearing initially on the Quartet’s album Time Out-the other members of the classic Quartet were bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello-the song became Brubeck’s signature piece, performed at virtually every concert he played for the remainder of his life. The single’s B-side, the Brubeck-penned “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” in 9/8 time, also appeared initially on Time Out, and became another iconic Brubeck work.

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