Dave Brubeck


Jazz icon Dave Brubeck, who died one day shy of his 92nd birthday last week, was for decades a central figure in one of America’s original art forms. His legacy included frequent visits to Toledo.

Mr. Brubeck released nearly 100 albums, but is best known for his quartet’s 1959 masterpiece Time Out, the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. It oozed West Coast cool with its classic song in unorthodox 5/4 time, “Take Five,” written by Mr. Brubeck’s saxophone player and sidekick, the late Paul Desmond.

The album defied conventional music-writing at the time, but was a hit on college campuses, including the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. Mr. Brubeck played at these and other local venues over the years, with one of his quartets or as a guest pianist with the Toledo Symphony. He also performed at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Stranahan Theater, and even the old Sports Arena.

His political work also had a local connection. Legendary Toledo vocalist Jon Hendricks appeared with Mr. Brubeck on a 1962 album that also featured Louis Armstrong. It was based on a jazz musical about the role musicians played as global ambassadors for the U.S. State Department during the Cold War.

Mr. Brubeck’s civil-rights advocacy emerged from personal experience. His quartet canceled several concerts after it was told it could not perform with its bass player, Eugene Wright, who was black. The quartet rejected at least one scheduled television appearance after it learned that producers had planned to keep Mr. Wright off camera.

Mr. Brubeck called such practices “unconstitutional and ridiculous.” He said racial prejudice “is holding our country back from where it should be.”

Mr. Brubeck was the second jazz musician, after Mr. Armstrong, to appear on the cover of Time magazine. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts formally honored him in 2009.

Dave Brubeck grew up on a California cattle ranch and thought he would become a cowboy. But he learned that his calling involved playing innovative jazz and promoting respect for all people.