Dave Brubeck changed the sound of jazz in profound ways, unexpectedly becoming something of a pop star in the process.
Starting in the mid-1950s, in fact, he emerged as a symbol of jazz in America, and well beyond, gracing the cover of Time magazine in 1954 and selling more than 1 million copies of Take Five in 1960.
To this day, the puckishly syncopated tune remains one of the most recognizable in jazz, though Brubeck didnt write ithis alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond, did.
Beneath the popular acclaim stood a brilliant, uncompromising composer-pianist who challenged conventional jazz techniques, brought the music to American college campuses and helped break down racial barriers through a music uniquely suited to that task.
Brubeck was en route to an appointment with his cardiologist when he was stricken Wednesday morning, said his longtime manager-producer-conductor, Russell Gloyd.
The pianist died of heart failure at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., near his home in Wilton, Conn.
Brubeck was anticipating a birthday concert Thursday, when he would have turned 92. The performance will go on, but in the form of a tribute, in Waterbury, Conn.
Dave Brubeck was one of the giants in the musiche changed the way people listened to the music, said David Baker, distinguished professor of music at Indiana University and a friend of the Brubeck family.
He could swing in any time signature it seemed like forward motion was born in his blood, said pianist Ramsey Lewis, who played four-hand piano with Brubeck at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park in 2010.
Although widely beloved as an elder statesman in jazz during recent decades, Brubecks initial burst of immense popularity, more than half a century ago, caused a backlash. When Take Five made him a household name, some critics and deejays accused him of selling out because of its underlying rhythmic pattern, which defied the two-, three- and four-beats-to-the-bar techniques of the day, he said in a 1990 Tribune interview
At that time, hardly any musicians could play Take Five, Now a grammar school kid can play it. But those were breakthroughs.
Brubeck ventured even further afield in another piece that, to his surprise, became a popular hit, his Blue Rondo a la Turk.
Its lush harmonies sounded exotic in the late 50s, while its switches between offbeat rhythms and bona fide swing were like nothing yet encountered in American music.
But Brubecks inventions in jazz represent just part of his achievement. He also penned full-fledged ballets and epic choral/symphonic works.
The latter took on religious themes and ranked alongside works such as Duke Ellingtons Sacred Concerts for their ingenious synthesis of classical, jazz and other idioms.