You don't have to be a jazz aficionado to recognize Take Five, the smoky instrumental by the Dave Brubeck Quartet that was a musical milestone -- a deceptively complex jazz composition that cracked the Billboard singles chart and contributed a new, adventurous sound to the American musical landscape.
Take Five appeared on the seminal album Time Out, released in 1959 by the celebrated quartet of Mr. Brubeck on piano, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright.
It was the first jazz album to deliberately explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat and 3/4 waltz time. It was also the first million-selling jazz LP and is still among the bestselling jazz albums of all time.
Mr. Brubeck died Wednesday of heart failure at a hospital near his longtime home in Wilton, Conn. He was a day shy of his 92nd birthday.
He believed that jazz presented the best face of America to the world.
"Jazz is about freedom within discipline," he told The Associated Press in 2005. "Usually a dictatorship like in Russia and Germany will prevent jazz from being played because it just seemed to represent freedom, democracy and the United States.
"Many people don't understand how disciplined you have to be to play jazz. And that is really the idea of democracy -- freedom within the Constitution or discipline. You don't just get out there and do anything you want."
A thread that runs through Mr. Brubeck's work was breaking down the barriers between musical genres -- particularly jazz and classical music.
"When you hear Bach or Mozart, you hear perfection," Mr. Brubeck said. "Remember that Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were great improvisers. I can hear that in their music."
Born in Concord, Calif., on Dec. 6. 1920, Mr. Brubeck began piano lessons with his mother at age 4, but those ended when he was 12 and his father moved the family to a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California.
He told a biographer that he recalled the rhythms he heard while working as a boy on cattle drives. The first time he heard polyrhythms -- the use of two rhythms at the same time -- was on horseback.