Name at birth: David Warren Brubeck
Dave Brubeck was a jazz pianist and composer who's 1959 record Time Out became the first million-selling jazz record in the United States. A year after the album's release, the single "Take Five" (and "Blue Rondo a la Turk") became a hit on both jazz and pop charts. Brubeck grew up on a cattle ranch in north central California and was taught music by his mother, a classically trained pianist. His older brothers were musicians, and Brubeck initially studied veterinary medicine at College of the Pacific in Stockton so as to follow in his father's footsteps as a rancher. By his second year of college Brubeck had switched to studying music, relying solely on his natural talent to master several instruments -- he never learned to read music. After graduating in 1942, Brubeck spent time in the U.S. Army until 1946, then returned to California to study music at Mills College in Oakland with Darius Milhaud. He left without a graduate degree, but continued to work with Milhaud on compositions that stretched the boundaries of jazz. Brubeck made his first records in 1949 and received favorable reviews, but it took a while to get his career as a performer going. He toured the U.S. and played concerts on college campuses with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, gaining recognition for what was called West Coast or "cool" jazz. His influence was such that in 1954 he beat out Duke Ellington for the cover of TIME magazine, and the State Department tapped his band to take a goodwill tour of Europe, including behind the Iron Curtain, in 1958. The Quartet included Joe Morello (drums) and Eugene Wright (bass) and Brubeck's musical soul mate, saxophonist Paul Desmond; they played together until disbanding in 1967. Brubeck was known for playing unusual time signatures with a little swing, and during his career he played with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. He won just about every industry award there is, including a Grammy for lifetime achievement, and in 1999 the National Endowment of the Arts gave him the title Jazz Master. Brubeck had a long career and continued to top jazz polls long after he gave up touring. He died of heart failure the day before his 92nd birthday.
Although Dave Brubeck wrote most of the music on Time Out, it was Paul Desmond who wrote “Take Five.”