Dave Brubeck, the pianist and composer who helped make jazz popular again in the 1950s and 1960s with recordings like “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell a million copies, died Dec. 5 in Norwalk, Conn. He was 91.
Born in Concord, Contra Costa County, he grew up in farm country. His father, Pete, was a cattle buyer for a meat company, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a choir director at the nearby Presbyterian Church.
Drafted to serve in General Patton’s Army during World War II, he formed the Army’s first integrated band.
He later toured with Black musicians in the Jim Crow South at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, insisting on mixed race quartets and integrated crowds. Because of this courageous stand, 23 out of 25 of his shows were cancelled one summer.
“Jazz is the voice of freedom,” he said.
Brubeck later became a leader in the West Coast Cool Jazz scene, putting California on the map. He performed before presidents, prime ministers, premieres and pontiffs. He was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment of Arts and he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
His life was commemorated by on the floor of Congress by Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield).