1. Gone With the Wind 5:00
2. The Lonesome Road 8:03
3. Three To Get Ready 4:16
4. Take Five 5:12
5. Blue Rondo a la Turk 7:55
6. Take the “A” Train 5:35
Newport Jazz Festival , Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Concert Date:July 5, 1959
Library of Congress Title/Carrier #221455
Newport 1959: Learning to Count
The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” is arguably the most familiar and beloved jazz composition of all time. Written primarily by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and recorded by the “classic” Quartet lineup (Brubeck, Desmond, drummer Joe Morello, and bassist Eugene Wright), it was the first jazz single to sell over a million copies, and remains the most recognized track on their iconic “Time Out” LP, which reached Double Platinum status in 2011. During live performances, audience members would request it with mid-concert shouts, and halls would erupt with recognition as Joe and Dave would swing into the distinctive 5/4 drum-and-piano intro.
But not on the evening of July 5, 1959, the closing night of that year’s Newport Jazz Festival. The song commenced in silence and was rewarded afterwards with appreciative-but-polite applause.
But that’s because no one had ever heard it before. In fact, the song had only been committed to tape four days earlier, in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City. And it would be at least another five months before any of those in attendance would hear it again, after the album was released on December 14, 1959. On that summer’s eve, the song that would become the Quartet’s signature tune was only a novelty.
The world premiere occurred partway through the Quartet’s set. The emcee – Voice of America’s legendary jazz aficionado, Willis Conover – joined Dave on stage to announce a preview of the Quartet’s newest departures from “standard repertoire.” Brubeck explained that the group had been recording an album using non-standard time signatures, after having “heard many interesting rhythms, especially in India and in the Middle East.”
The first public performance of this “new material in new tempi” included three tracks from the upcoming album, presented in increasing order of rhythmic difficulty. First up was the playful “Three to Get Ready,” alternating between 3/4 and 4/4 time. Next was “Take Five” and its 5/4 tempo “very rarely used in jazz,” which Brubeck opined “should be used a lot more often.” The group already sounded more relaxed and confident with the tune, and the performance is more dynamic – and boasts a more ambitious drum solo – than the LP version. Dave called the time signature of the third tune “so complex, I’m not going to bother to explain it,” and playfully taunted the audience (“Have a ball trying to count it”) before tearing into eight minutes of “Blue Rondo a la Turk” that left the crowd cheering for more.
Although no one could have guessed how huge the new material would become, initial reactions were favorable. Local Festival coverage lauded Brubeck’s “surprise” of “new material using startling tempos.” The Associated Press dubbed the trio of new compositions “one of the hits of tonight’s final program.” And it took less than a day for the Newport Daily News to presciently peg the tunes as “the brainy type of advanced jazz that modern fans like.”
What they failed to predict, however, was how much modern fans’ children and grandchildren would end up liking it, too.
Sound Quality: Except for microphone placement issues during the first 30 seconds of the first song (Gone with the Wind), this Voice of America production is an excellent monaural recording of a historic Brubeck set. The dynamic bass and treble response clearly capture all four instrumentalists, with a pleasing balance between their instruments.
Associated Press. “Jazz Festival Ends.” The Bridgeport Telegram [Bridgeport, Connecticut] 6 July 1959: 2. Print.
Kaull, James T. “City’s Back on Even Keel After Wild Jazz Weekend.” Newport Daily News [Newport, Rhode Island]: 6 July 1959: 6. Print.
Legacy Recordings. "Dave Brubeck's 1959 Jazz Masterpiece Time Out Certified Double Platinum by RIAA." PRNewswire.com. PR Newswire Associates LLC, 6 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 July 2016.
(Text Copyright 2016, Douglas C. Anderson)