Jazz great Dave Brubeck dies at 91

Musician was one day shy of 92nd birthday

By Lisa Respers France CNN
POSTED: 9:40 AM Dec 05 2012   UPDATED: 10:49 AM Dec 05 2012
Dave Brubeck
(CNN) -

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, 91, died Wednesday from heart failure, his manager, Russell Gloyd, told CNN.

Brubeck's heart stopped while he was en route to the hospital with his eldest son for a regular checkup, Gloyd said. His son became alarmed about his father and called 911, Gloyd said.

"(Paramedics) came out and said, 'We just can't keep the heart going,' " Gloyd told CNN.

Gloyd, who also was a producer with Brubeck, said the musician was rushed to Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn., where he was declared dead.

According to his website, Brubeck was born into a musical family in Concord, Calif., and had two older brothers who were also professional musicians. As a teen, he began playing in local dance bands after his family moved to a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierra mountains.

Intent on pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, Brubeck worked his way through college as a pianist in jazz bands. He soon switched his major to music and went on to pursue a career, releasing music as part of the Dave Brubeck Trio in 1949. He formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 following a near fatal car crash.

Songs such as "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Take Five" helped the jazz artist find crossover success in the pop world.

Designated a "living legend" by the Library of Congress, Brubeck was still actively pursuing his career in music. Gloyd said the pianist continued to practice every day and was contemplating recording a new song.

But his longtime manager/publicist said he and the musician's family hope that Brubeck is also remembered for his political activism.

"I don't think people realize his commitment to civil rights and justice," Gloyd said. "At the height of his stardom, he canceled 23 out of 24 concerts in the South at Southern universities when they would not allow him to bring his black bass player."

In a statement, the president of The Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, called Brubeck an "iconic jazz and classical pianist."

"Throughout his six decade-long career, his unique time signatures and distinct rhythms were highlights of his innovative style," Portnow continued. "As one of the prime architects of the sophisticated West Coast jazz sound, Brubeck showed that jazz could be artistically challenging yet accessible to large audiences. His recordings have received both commercial and critical success, and will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come. We have lost a great legend in our community, and our thoughts and condolences go to his family, friends and all those he inspired."

Brubeck would have celebrated his 92nd birthday on Thursday.