Few jazz artists are better known than Dave Brubeck — by fellow musicians, by jazz aficionados and by the public at large.

The 1959 record Time Out stands as one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. Along with Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and their long run of successful albums on Columbia formed the signature sound of the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Brubeck’s father was a cattle rancher, while his mother originally planned to be a concert pianist. Growing up near San Francisco, the young Brubeck’s plans to follow his father to the ranch fell to his talent and love for jazz. His innate talents in harmony and counterpoint led to studies with composer Darius Milhaud, among others. In Europe during the Second World War, he formed a band — The Wolfpack — through which he met his longtime playing partner Paul Desmond in 1944. He made his first recording — leading an octet — upon his return to California in 1949, and made recordings almost continuously after that.

In January, 2011, I had the great honour of meeting Brubeck and introducing him at a concert at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory. It turned out to be his last concert in Toronto; he passed away in early 2012.

Brubeck was as well known for his commitment to civil rights as to jazz; the quartet was one of the first integrated groups to achieve national success. His interest in rhythms and time signatures not common in jazz broadened horizons everywhere.

With artists of this calibre, choosing five of their best albums is a challenge. With Time Out remaining one of the most well-known albums of all time, I’ve chosen a few of my favourite Dave Brubeck recordings that are slightly off the beaten path.