Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Legendary jazz pianist Brubeck dead at 91

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HARTFORD, Conn. -- Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as Take Five caught listeners' ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.

Brubeck died Wednesday morning at a Hartford hospital of heart failure after being stricken while on his way to a cardiology appointment. Brubeck would have turned 92 today.

Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since the Second World War. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine -- on Nov. 8, 1954 -- and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and '60s club jazz.

The seminal album Time Out, released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the bestselling jazz albums of all time. It opens with Blue Rondo a la Turk in 9/8 time -- nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats.

A piano-and-saxophone whirlwind based loosely on a Mozart piece, Blue Rondo eventually intercuts between Brubeck's piano and a more traditional 4/4 jazz rhythm.

The album also features Take Five -- in 5/4 time -- which became the Quartet's signature theme and even made the Billboard singles chart in 1961. It was composed by Brubeck's longtime saxophonist, Paul Desmond.

"When you start out with goals -- mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically -- you never exhaust that," Brubeck said in 1995. "I started doing that in the 1940s. It's still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements."

After service in the Second World War and study at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., Brubeck formed an octet that included Desmond on alto sax and Dave van Kreidt on tenor, Cal Tjader on drums and Bill Smith on clarinet. The group played Brubeck originals and standards by other composers, including some early experimentation in unusual time signatures. Their groundbreaking album Dave Brubeck Octet was recorded in 1946.

The group evolved into the Quartet, which played colleges and universities. The Quartet's first album, Jazz at Oberlin, was recorded live at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1953.

Ten years later, Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass joined with Brubeck and Desmond to produce Time Out.

In later years Brubeck composed music for operas, ballet, even a contemporary Mass.

In 1988, he played for Mikhail Gorbachev, at a dinner in Moscow that then-President Ronald Reagan hosted for the Soviet leader.

Musicians were already on their way to Connecticut this week for a birthday concert in his Brubeck's honour that had been scheduled for Thursday in Waterbury. The show will go on as a tribute concert.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 C18

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