Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out

As Saturdays have been reserved for albums that made a difference in my life, I am grooving to an album that I purchased sometime in the latter 1970s. Usually, I can remember where or when I was when I purchased a particular record, but I am at a loss to where and when I bought this one. I am thinking perhaps in 1976 or 77 at Murphy Mart in Ashland, KY. I can’t swear to it, but that seems to be what my memory fogged by nearly 54 years of information that crammed into my brain is telling me.

"Time Out" is a great LP all the way around and it was probably years later that I understood the full significance of this album in the scheme of jazz and music as a whole. I bought it primarily for the album’s only hit – “Take Five.” In the late seventies, I was immersing myself into jazz of all kinds, but piano jazz such as Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, and others were frequent acquisitions during the period.

What I didn’t realize that that songs on all this album were out of character even for jazz at the time because they deviated from common time that is so – er – common in all types of music. The album begins with “Blue Rondo Ala Turk” in an unusual version of 9/8 time.

As a time signature, 9/8 is not that uncommon. If you pick up an old hymnal from the 1940s, a number of odd time signatures are used for some of the songs such as 6/4, 9/8, and 12/8. Brubeck et al’s treatment of 9/8 isn’t your typical sets of triples: 123-123-123. It is the rather unusual count of 12-12-12-123. Add to the fact that the solo breaks are in 4/4 time and then the song jumps back into 9/8 ala Brubeck.

The second cut, “Strange Meadow Lark” starts in a very lyrical freeform style with no real time signature and ends in straight forward 4/4 time. The signature number of the album is saxophonist Paul Desmond’s composition, “Take Five.” Done in a syncopated 5/4 time – which normally would be a straight forward 1-2-3-4-5 or 1-2-3 1-2; however, the syncopation in this number makes it 1-and and-2 3-4-5 – which is more like 1-2 1-2-3. Are you confused? I certainly am. Anyway, upon his death, Paul Desmond willed the royalties of “Take Five” to the American Heart Association and it is estimated that it generates 100 grand a year for this charity. The song is also in Ebm.

Side two opens with “Three to Get Ready” which starts in 3/4 time and uses eighth notes to quicken the pace all within the confines of 3/4, until the solo then its two measures of 3/4 followed by two measures of 4/4. Similarly, “Kathy’s Waltz” starts in 3/4 and then alternates between 3/4 and 4/4. The last two numbers, “Everybody’s Jumping” and “Pick-Up Sticks” are in 6/4 time.

I’ve listened to the whole thing twice through today as I was preparing to write this. There was no doubt in my mind that “Take Five” would be my choice. It took two years for the album and single to make a dent, but “Time Out” would be a number 1 album and “Take Five” placed at #5 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.

In 1983, I got to see Dave Brubeck live in an intimate setting at Park Junior High (now Middle) School in Beckley, WV. It was a great evening in music. I went with a couple of musician friends, guitarist Robert Tipane and drummer Meredith Trent. At that time, Brubeck was playing with his sons Darius, Dan, and Chris. There also was saxophonist present at the gig, as I remember “Take Five” being played. I had a chance to meet Dave after the show and he signed a program for me, but I have since misplaced it over the years. Drat.

To help you appreciate this album in its entirety, I have created a YouTube playlist that features all of the songs in order. Enjoy.

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