Dave Brubeck, the Bay Area-born jazz pianist who left an indelible artistic and commercial mark on the music, has died. He was 91.
Brubeck passed away Wednesday morning in Norwalk, Conn., of heart failure, according to news reports. He was on the way to a regular appointment with his cardiologist. Thursday would have been Brubeck's 92nd birthday.
Born into a musical family in the East Bay suburb of Concord, Brubeck was one of the leading figures of West Coast jazz through the late 1950s and 1960s. His album Time Out became became the first jazz record to sell a million copies, a surprise given its employment of only odd time signatures. "Take Five" -- a tip-toeing piano romp in 5/4 time that heavily featured the sax work of Brubeck collaborator Paul Desmond -- eventually reached No. 25 on the pop charts, a feat even in the heyday of jazz, and went on to become the bestselling jazz song of all time. The song and the album today are some of the genre's most towering works, rivaling staples like Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme as key recordings that even non jazz-heads need to own.
Brubeck worked hard at music through the rest of his life, exploring longer compositions, incorporating ethnic sounds into his music, and performing regularly. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton and the Kennedy Center Honors by President Obama. Brubeck also won a Grammy for lifetime achievement and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A graduate of Stockton's University of the Pacific and Oakland's Mills College, Brubeck is the most important jazzman to hail from Northern California. He continued to remember the region well into old age: Brubeck had been scheduled to perform at UOP in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Time Out in 2009, but his son Darius had to step in at the last minute due to a medical issue.