Jazz pioneer Dave Brubeck passed away Wednesday morning from heart failure at the age of 91. The pianist and composer garnered international acclaim for his complex use of meter and rhythm.
Brubeck was a 2009 Kennedy Center honoree, and frequented local venues including Blues Alley and Strathmore. In a 2006 review of Brubeck’s performance at the Washington National Cathedral, Joe Banno wrote:
“The Dave Brubeck Quartet may not be the youngest guys on the jazz circuit, but you certainly couldn’t tell it from their playing ... The 85-year-old Brubeck’s keyboard work was as pert and elegantly turned as ever.”
Brubeck was perhaps best known for the song “Take Five,” written by longtime collaborator Paul Desmond and recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Local pianist Chris Grasso said Brubeck was the first jazz pianist he ever saw perform live, at the Newport Jazz Festival in the late ’70s. A couple of years ago, Grasso said he actually had the daunting task of following Brubeck’s performance at the Litchfield Jazz Festival in 2010.
“We were supposed to open for Mr. Brubeck, but he decided he didn’t want to stay up so late, so he went on first and then we closed the show,” Grasso said in an email. “So I had to go on right after him, playing piano — terrifying.”
Look for at least a couple Brubeck tunes at Grasso’s shows Friday and Saturday night with Sharon Clark and Lena Seikaly at the Mandarin Oriental.