02 January 2017

"Take Five" - the Dave Brubeck Quartet

Brubeck at the piano, Paul Desmond on alto sax.

"Time Out" was probably the first jazz album I ever purchased, back in about 1962. I've embedded the signature piece ("Take Five") above; in 1961 it became the biggest-selling jazz single ever recorded.

The album, released in 1959, was revolutionary for its era because of the unusual times used in many of the pieces. Blue Rondo a la Turk (video here) "starts in 9/8 (the rhythm of the Turkish zeybek, equivalent of the Greek zeibekiko), but with the unorthodox subdivision pattern of 2+2+2+3 (the normal pattern for 9/8 is 3+3+3), and the saxophone and piano solos are in 4/4."

Originally posted in 2009 to note the death of Dave Brubeck at age 91.   Reposted in 2016 because I happened to hear this piece played while I was shopping in the Target deli this weekend.

Word for the day:  "Written in the key of E-flat minor, the piece is known for its distinctive two-chord piano vamp; catchy blues-scale saxophone melody; inventive, jolting drum solo; and unusual quintuple (5
) time, from which its name is derived."
In music, a vamp is a repeating musical figure, section, or accompaniment used in blues, jazz, gospel, soul, and musical theater. Vamps are also found in rock, funk, reggae, R&B, pop, country, and post-sixties jazz. Vamps are usually harmonically sparse: A vamp may consist of a single chord or a sequence of chords played in a repeated rhythm. The term frequently appeared in the instruction 'Vamp till ready' on sheet music for popular songs in the 1930s and 1940s, indicating that the accompanist should repeat the musical phrase until the vocalist was ready. Vamps are generally symmetrical, self-contained, and open to variation. The equivalent in classical music is an ostinato, in hip hop is the loop and in rock music is the riff. The slang term vamp comes from the Middle English word vampe (sock), from Old French avanpie, equivalent to Modern French avant-pied, literally before-foot.


  1. This was my first jazz record too, although I didn't buy it until the late '60s. It was recommended to me by a jazz flautist with whom I had a brief but pleasant liaison when I was in my mid-20s.

    I knew nothing about jazz, and we'd sit for hours while he played his favorite jazz records--this album, along with those of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and others--and called my attention to what was going on musically. I hadn't known how to listen to jazz, but I learned the basics with his expert coaching.

    Although I'll never be an aficionado, the ability to enjoy jazz on a simple level was a real gift for which I'll always be grateful to the dude. I'm tickled to be reminded of one of his teaching aids.

  2. I guess when you say "normal" pattern you refer to "western rhythms". Because for turkish music 9/8 beat is almost always that 2+2+2+3 pattern -of course triple beat may be in any step of those four.

  3. @duygu - that quote came from Wiki. To me, 2+2+2+3 is 9.

  4. Sad to lose Dave. Now, only Eugene Wright (bassist) is left of the original quartet. We lost drummer Joe Morello recently, too. I'll never forget seeing the four of them in the 1970's when they regrouped for a while. I was a student drummer and got to help Joe put his kit away after the show. Always thought it was cool that I got to hold the cymbals and drums used in Take 5. They were true music pioneers, plus they were all such friendly fellows, too. RIP, Dave.

  5. There is a follow up piece by Paul Desmond called "Take Ten". It is a fantastic song, on par with Take Five, and the whole album is equally as good.

    The relationship between Desmond and Brubeck bordered on comical at times.

    Great stuff!!

  6. Do not forget Joe Morello. A great drummer.


    And it's never too late : Happy New Year

  7. Wonderful stuff!
    Is it hypersensitivity or is the guy on the double bass cunningly hidden from view for most of the clip?


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