Dave Brubeck, Iconic Jazz Pianist, Dead at 91

Dave Brubeck, leader of the eponymous quartet, died a day before his birthday

Dave Brubeck, the legendary jazz pianist and composer, died in Norwalk, Conn. Wednesday morning, a day before his 92nd birthday. 

A spokeswoman for Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that a Dave Brubeck had died, while multiple other media outlets have reported that it was pianist Brubeck died of congestive heart failure, citing his manager Russell Gloyd.

The Concord, Calif.-native led an eponymous quartet throughout the 1950s and '60s, recording legendary songs such as “Take Five” and “Three to Get Ready.” Brubeck, who disbanded the quartet in 1967 to focus on composition, was known for experimenting with time signatures, particularly on “Take Five.”

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He was the second jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time magazine, in 1954, was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2009 and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2008.

Born on Dec. 6, 1920, Brubeck grew up on a ranch in California and came by music via zoology. He first entered the College of the Pacific to study veterinary science, but a professor urged him to focus on his passion – music. Though he then transferred, it was at College of the Pacific (now University of Pacific) that he met his wife Iola Whitlock. 

After serving in the Army during WWII for General George S. Patton, Brubeck returned to study at Mills College under Darius Milhaud. He also met long-time musical partner Paul Desmond, who was a member of the Brubeck Quartet and wrote “Take Five.” He, Desmond and six others formed an octet in the late '40s, slimming down to a quartet in the early 1950s.

Brubeck is survived by his wife, Iola, children and grandchildren.