Maher died Friday at Good Samaritan Hospital in suburban Downers Grove. The cause of death was not specified.
``Jack Maher was a cheerleader, a taskmaster, a visionary, a curmudgeon when he wanted to be, and your grandfather when he wanted to be,'' said longtime Down Beat staffer Frank Alkyer, whom Maher appointed last year as his successor as publisher.
Maher was credited with transforming Down Beat into a leading forum on jazz, with a roster of writers who included Leonard Feather, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern, Ralph Gleason and Ira Gitler.
The magazine was founded in 1934 to chronicle the comings and goings of touring swing bands.
A previous owner forfeited the magazine to his printer, Maher's father, John Maher.
After his father died in 1968, Jack Maher put up his own money to acquire Down Beat, outbidding Playboy founder and jazz aficionado Hugh Hefner.
Maher immediately changed a number of his father's policies, including one which had frowned on putting pictures of black musicians on Down Beat's cover.
'`The cover is the vehicle used to get potential readers into the magazine,'' Maher said in 1994. ``Down Beat has always championed jazz, which has meant championing African-American musicians.''
Maher is survived by his wife, Pat, a sister and six children.