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Dave Brubeck RIP

Popular jazz stalwart Dave Brubeck has died of heart failure a day before his 92nd birthday. An American pianist composer and bandleader born in the Bay Area of San Francisco, Brubeck considered himself "a composer who plays the piano". As such, he composed a number of large scale pieces, including ballets, a musical, cantatas and pieces for orchestras, and also recorded a large number of popular jazz albums and standards.

Brubeck frequently recorded and composed in uncommon time signatures for a jazz group of his kind. Nonetheless, his music had enormous appeal – he performed at the White House, and throughout the 1950s and 60s he topped popularity polls in magazines like Down Beat and Metronome. His quartet was incredibly popular on college campuses in the 50s.

Brubeck began performing professionally at the age of 13. He studied classical composition with Darius Milhaud at Mills College, and founded the Experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble with fellow students. With that group he recorded in 1949 as the Dave Brubeck Octet. Then in 1951 he formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with longterm collaborator and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. In 1967 the Quartet disbanded and he began to focus on longer works and spend more time with his family.

Later in his life, Brubeck founded The Brubeck Institute, which originated as a Brubeck archive and which developed to incorporate funding programmes and a festival.

Read an essay on Brubeck by from the archives by Richard Cook in The Wire 33.