The jazz artist Dave Brubeck died Wednesday at 91, according to his manager, Russell Gloyd. He died of cardiac arrest one day short of his 92nd birthday in Norwalk, Conn.
The pianist and arranger, born in Concord, Calif., was one of jazz’s first pop stars, the musician who with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and their Dave Brubeck Quartet introduced Desmond’s canonical “Take Five,” whose melodic style and unconventional time signature embodied a blend of the accessible and the progressive.
Brubeck was among the first musicians to popularize jazz as an academic subject, barnstorming colleges on tours that earned him a young audience and favor in music scholar circles, especially for his ambitious choral and symphonic works. He was famed for his odd meters, which made albums like “Time Out” feel nimble and ambitious even as they earned big sales and pop acclaim.
He was among America’s most famous jazz artists, penning such popular songs as “The Duke” and “In Your Own Sweet Way” and scores for Broadway and television programs.
He wasn’t entirely comfortable with his fame, though. In 2010, he told The Times that his appearance on the cover of Time magazine was distracting and undeserved. “Seven in the morning, there’s a knock at the door and there’s Duke [Ellington] handing me the magazine and saying, ‘Dave, you’re on the cover.’ He was happy for me, but I was just so disappointed because it should have been him. They got around to him finally a couple of years later. But … it just bothered me,” he said.
Early in his career, he also was famed for crossing racial lines in the segregated South, routinely playing African American jazz clubs. He received the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2009. He was most recently celebrated in “Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way,” a documentary executive produced by Clint Eastwood.