Dave Brubeck, a seminal figure in jazz, who popularized the musical form over seven decades, died suddenly today from a heart attack at his home in Norwalk, Conn. He was one day shy of his 92nd birthday.
Brubeck composed hundreds of unique songs during his long career. “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “The Duke” and “Take Five” were among the most popular, and his music was embraced by the ’50s Beat Generation.
He recorded and toured with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, with renowned alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Their instrumental hit “Take Five” sold more than one million records in the 1950s, an unheralded accomplishment for the genre.
His music was known for its often complex rhythmic patterns, He said he was inspired to create the beats from riding his horses and listening to their hoofbeats as the cantered.
His roots in jazz were deep. He studied with Darius Milhaud in the 1940s. The experimental French composer directed him from a classical background in music into the emerging world of free-form jazz. He pioneered polytonal (more than one key) music and the use of ethic music from around the world as the underpinning of some of his works.
He launched the jazz revolution in the 1950s and was a precursor, and perhaps a catalyst for rock ‘n roll that was to follow. He found a ready audience on college campuses where young intellectuals were beginning to question authority and searching for things that gave them their own identity. Jazz was one of them.
It became the music of the Beat Generation and finger-snapping beatniks. In 1959, his album Time Out sold more than one million copies, and reached No. 2 on the pop charts.
Brubeck abandoned his famed quartet in 1967 to focus on longer, extended orchestral and choral works. He went through a spiritual awakening in 1980 and became a Catholic.
He was on his way to a cardiology appointment, accompanied by his son, Darius, when he died suddenly, according to his agent.
Check out a video of the band’s song “Take Five,” played by the quartet in 1964, and click here to follow TheImproper on Twitter for all the latest music updates.