TIME OUT-Columbia CL 1397: Blue Rondo A La Turk; Strange Meadow Lark; Take Five; Three to Get Ready; Kathy’s Waltz; Everybody’s Jumpin’; Pick Up Sticks.
Personnel: Brubeck, piano; Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Gene Wright, bass; Joe Morello, drums.
If you take Steve Race’s notes at face value, you are led to believe that this record, because of it’s exploration into time signatures foreign to jazz, is a jazz milestone. Jazz experiments of any kind are fine, but there has to be something in addition to the experiment. The substance of the compositions being played should engender a jazz feeling. It doesn’t have to be a cat playing whorehouse piano with a drummer laying heavy on the two and four. I appreciate the tender moments of jazz and fully realize that you can’t swing hard all the time, but when the underlying tenor is more like drawing room music, I leave the drawing room and go into the bar.
In classical music, there is a kind of pretentious pap, sometimes called “semi-classical,” which serves as the real thing for some people. As a parallel, Brubeck is a “semi-jazz” player. There is “pop jazz” with no pretentions like that purveyed by George Shearing and everyone accepts it for what it is. Brubeck, on the other hand, has been palmed off as a serious jazzman for too long.
Take Blue Rondo A La Turk in 9/8. After hearing that ersatz, corny Chopinesque he used for Polish representation in Jazz Impressions of Eurasia, Im surprised he didn’t play In A Persian Market here. Blue Rondo’s theme is equally far from jazz. The blues that follows (Desmond’s solo is about as jazzy as it gets) bears little reaction to Brubeck’s Turkish blight. Then, to quote Race, “Dave follows, with a characteristically neat transition to the heavy block chords which are a familiar facet of his style...” I might add, not only familiar but particularly unrewarding. Substituting bombast for swing is a Brubeckian credo, it seems. Swing must have ended for him when Raymond Gram died.
Strange Meadow Lark is the best track in the album, a melody worthy of being placed alongside In Your Own Sweet Way. Desmond is at his most sensitive and, as Race states, “wistful”. Brubeck doesn’t pound here, and he develops some melodic ideas, something he rarely does at faster tempos.
Take Five in 4/5 is by Desmond. Race writes, “Conscious of how easily the listener can lose his way in a quintuple rhythm, Dave plays a constant vamp figure throughout...” This turns out to be like a Chinese water torture. If this is what we have to endure with experimentation in time, take me back to good old 4/4. It’s not far out, but it does swing. Morello’s solo, over the omnipresent vamp, sounds like the accompaniment for a troupe of trampoline artists.
In Three to Get Ready, the thematic material is again alien to jazz, but the alternation of two bars of 3/4 with two bars of 4/4 does engender a different and effective kind of swing. Morello’s brush work is supreme, and Wright’s tone is light but firm. Desmond cruises but Brubeck, who starts well, then gets into one of his cul de sacs.
Kathy’s Waltz , another attractive theme, shows off Brubeck, the romantic, in a warm light. Desmond is again poetic and the idea of the rhythm section playing in quick 3/4, actually heightens what the soloists are doing.
Everybody’s Jumpin’ has a six-note figure for its theme. It is worked in incessantly by Brubeck in his solo, as if to hit us over the head with the fact that this is “ev-ry-bo-dy;s jump’in.” It’s a bore.
Pick Up Sticks, in 6/4 is anchored by bassist Wright, who repeats six notes throughout, much in the manner of Brubeck’s vamp on Take Five. That, and Morello’s purposely heavy accents on the bass drum, nearly drove me to distraction. When Brubeck, as Vulcan at the forge, came in with his heavy-handed approach, the drive was completed.
It’s obvious that I disagree with Race’s observation that “something great has been attempted... and achieved” in Time Out. If Brubeck wants to experiment with time, let him not insult his audience with such crashing-bore devices as mentioned. Better still, if he wants to experiment, let him begin with trying some real jazz.
Dave Brubeck's defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. It was a risky move -- Brubeck's record company wasn't keen on releasing such an arty project, and many critics initially roasted him for tampering with jazz's rhythmic foundation. But for once, public taste was more advanced than that of the critics.
Buoyed by a hit single in altoist Paul Desmond's ubiquitous "Take Five," Time Out became an unexpectedly huge success, and still ranks as one of the most popular jazz albums ever. That's a testament to Brubeck and Desmond's abilities as composers, because Time Out is full of challenges both subtle and overt -- it's just that they're not jarring. Brubeck's classic "Blue Rondo à la Turk" blends jazz with classical form and Turkish folk rhythms, while "Take Five," despite its overexposure, really is a masterpiece; listen to how well Desmond's solo phrasing fits the 5/4 meter, and how much Joe Morello's drum solo bends time without getting lost.
The other selections are richly melodic as well, and even when the meters are even, the group sets up shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints that nod to African and Eastern musics. Some have come to disdain Time Out as its become increasingly synonymous with upscale coffeehouse ambience, but as someone once said of Shakespeare, it's really very good in spite of the people who like it. It doesn't just sound sophisticated -- it really is sophisticated music, which lends itself to cerebral appreciation, yet never stops swinging. Countless other musicians built on its pioneering experiments, yet it's amazingly accessible for all its advanced thinking, a rare feat in any art form. This belongs in even the most rudimentary jazz collection.
© Copyright Rovi Corporation
As the authors of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Penguin, 1992-2008) observed, pianist Dave Brubeck's Time Out has become so familiar that "no one actually hears what's going on anymore."
The album is one of two masterpieces made in 1959 sharing that fate. The other is trumpeter Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia). But Brubeck's album has suffered the most. Davis' studied cultivation of his image, along with such spurious qualifications for hipsterdom as his bouts of heroin and cocaine addiction, mean that Kind of Blue's magic still shines through the cloak of over-familiarity.
Time Out, on the other hand, was made by a quartet which included three nerdy looking white guys in college professor spectacles. Plus it spawned an international hit single in "Take Five"/"Blue Rondo A La Turk." With all that going against it, you had—and, perhaps, still have—to be truly hip to recognize the album's perfection.
Despite its eventual commercial success, Time Out was slow off the blocks. Columbia executives thought Brubeck's exploration of unusual time signatures (5/4, 9/8, 6/4, 3/4) would baffle the public and they did little to promote the disc. But the public proved to be thoroughly unbaffled and sales multiplied through word of mouth, fired by the quartet's relentless touring. Finally, a year after Time Out's release, the "Take Five" single was put out and history made.
Columbia then got the group back in the studio in short order to record a follow-up, Time Further Out (1961), another fine album which included the hit "It's a Raggy Waltz."
"Take Five" includes one of the most thrilling drum solos ever recorded, a 2:20 master class in percussive accentuation, colorization and structure. Unlike the rest of Time Out, which was composed by Brubeck, the tune was written by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. "It was never supposed to be a hit," Desmond said later. "It was supposed to be a Joe Morello drum solo." Morello had joined the quartet in 1956 over Desmond's initial objection: the saxophonist was concerned that Morello's muscular style would jar with his own lyrical approach. Desmond was won over, and when the composer royalties for "Take Five" started pouring in, he must have been relieved Brubeck had stood his ground and insisted on hiring Morello.
There is much, much more to love about Time Out, most particularly Desmond's deceptively fragile alto and Brubeck's unique blend of blues tonalities, two-fisted block chording, and advanced, European-derived harmonization. And a bunch of great tunes including "Take Five," "Blue Rondo A La Turk," "Strange Meadow Lark," "Three to Get Ready" and "Kathy's Waltz," named after Brubeck's daughter, Cathy, but misspelled by the sleeve's typographer.
If Time Out has become a little inaudible in your life, it is time to play it again and marvel.
© Copyright All About Jazz
Boasting the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies, the Paul Desmond-penned "Take Five," Time Out captures the celebrated jazz quartet at the height of both its popularity and its powers. Recorded in 1959, the album combines superb performances by pianist Brubeck, alto saxophonist Desmond, drummer Joe Morrello and bassist Gene Wright. Along with "Take Five," the album features another one of the group's signature compositions, "Blue Rondo a la Turk."
Though influenced by the West Coast-cool school, Brubeck's greatest interest and contribution to jazz was the use of irregular meters in composition, which he did with great flair. Much of the band's appeal is due to Desmond, whose airy tone and fluid attack often carried the band's already strong performances to another level. Together, he and Brubeck proved one of the most potent pairings of the era. --Fred Goodman
Not many authentic jazz albums yield hit singles: Time Out is one of them. “Take Five,” a melodic gem riding a hypnotic 5/4 rhythm composed by the group’s star saxophonist, Paul Desmond, captured the airwaves in 1959. Pianist Dave Brubeck had been popular before, but the single and album made him a bona fide jazz superstar.
“Take Five” maintains its luster to this day, as do such superior performances as "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and "Strange Meadowlark." Time Out exhibits both the indivisible unity of the Brubeck quartet and the outstanding individual contributions of Desmond, with his stunning “dry martini” tone, drummer Joe Morello, a technically adept master of unusual time signatures, and the leader, whose eccentric improvising remains inimitable.
The opener's rhythmic novelty may have drawn initial attention to this legendary album, but the memorable tunes and outstanding playing made it a keeper. There’s a reason that this classic remains a favorite long after Brubeck’s spectacular popularity has worn off.