Dave Brubeck, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and founder of the Dave Brubeck Trio, died this morning at the age of 91. He passed due to heart complications on his way to a cardiology appointment. Tomorrow would have been his 92nd birthday.
It's easy to call him a legend today, but in his time he was working against the musical tide. His love of jazz - and especially of experimenting with time signatures and polytonality - flew in the face of what the New York Times calls the "three-minute pop single" of the 1950s.
The Times offers a lovely obituary of the musician whose life was just as unlikely as his music. Self-trained as a classical pianist and cross-eyed as a child, Brubeck never considered jazz or fame, even after a local dance band leader persuaded him to perform as a teenager. He enrolled at the College of the Pacific in California to be a veterinarian, planning to return home and be a rancher. Then he was drafted by the Army and sent to France. It was during a performance with a Red Cross traveling show that his commanding officer recruited him to an Army band to play for the troops. He never fought.
The Biography Reference Bank fills in the rest of his musical story. After his military service, he resumed his studies with French composer Darius Milhaud, who helped solidify his interest in jazz. With other students of Milhaud, Brubeck formed the Jazz Workshop Ensemble and then the Dave Brubeck Trio in 1949. Starting by touring college campuses and eventually other venues world-wide, the Trio (later Quartet) gained a loyal audience and several record deals. In 1959, the Quartet recorded their most famous album, "Time Out," including "Take Five," and launched themselves into the musical stratosphere.
On the day of his passing, "take five" with the Naperville Public Library to honor Dave Brubeck. Explore his music, learn more about his life, and snap along (bet you can't help it) to his impressive legacy.