The Essential Dave Brubeck: Everything You Need to Know About the Jazz Great

By the numbers: We examine the accomplishments—and best performances—of the jazz innovator, who died at 91 on Dec. 5, 2012

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The jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, who died of heart failure on Dec. 5 just a day short of his 92nd birthday, had a lifetime full of numbers. Some of those numbers are hard to even count: the many awards won by the California-born musician include citations from foreign governments, major universities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and President Bill Clinton.

Some of the numbers, however, are more manageable. Brubeck lent his name to an octet, a quartet and a trio. His career spanned more than 60 years. And, famously, he’s played music in nearly every time signature you could imagine, even though jazz before his time tended to stick to the 4/4 “common time.” His 1959 Dave Brubeck Quartet record Time Out included “Take Five,” seen above, in 5/4 time.

(OBITUARY: Learn More About Dave Brubeck’s Life)

Here’s a quick primer on some of the other numbers in the legendary musician’s career:

3: In the 1970s, Brubeck and three of his sons performed as Two Generations of Brubeck.


(COVER:  Dave Brubeck, Nov. 8, 1954)

2: Even though Brubeck experimented with jazz rhythms and helped invent the jazz sound of the ’50s and ’60s, he also tackled songbook classics like “Tea for Two.”


(ARCHIVE: Jazz — Dave Becomes David)

1: The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album Time Out, which opened with “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” seen below, was the first ever long-playing jazz record to sell more than a million copies.