Wednesday, December 31, 2014

time out

The Dave Brubeck Quartet produced a jazz phenomenon with this progressive polyrhythmic pantomime.   Brubeck learned piano from his mother and received a degree in music from the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California; despite the fact that he could not read music.  After being drafted into Army, he formed the racially integrated "Wolfpack" band.  It was during this time that he met Paul Desmond.  Brubeck worked with an octet and then a trio, both of which sold well for Fantasy Records.  A spinal cord injury while diving in Hawaii changed the way he played the piano. He formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond and had more success with Jazz at Oberlin and  Jazz at the College of the Pacific debut before switching to Columbia Records for Jazz Goes to College in 1954; the same year he was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

Over the next five years they released nine albums (Jazz: Red Hot and Cool, Brubeck Time, Dave Digs Disney, Jazz Goes to Junior College, Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A,Jazz Impressions of Eurasia, Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe, Gone With the Wind, and The Riddle) with a revolving door rhythm section that included bassists Ron Crotty, Bob Bates, and Norman Bates; and drummers Lloyd Davis and Joe Dodge.  Joe Morello took over the kit in 1956 and African-American bassist Eugene Wright joined in 1958, creating some controversy where racial integration was still an issue.

A tour in Turkey exposed Brubeck to complex time signatures, which inspired the experimentation that informed 'Time Out'.   Teo Macero produced and Fred Plaut engineered the sessions at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York that featured Dave Brubeck on piano,  Paul Desmond on alto saxophone,  Eugene Wright on bass,  and Joe Morello on drums.  S. Neil Fujita did the cover artwork for 'Time Out', which became the first jazz album to sell a million copies.  

"Take Five" became one of the biggest jazz hits of all time, going to number twenty-five on the US pop chart and number five on the US easy listening chart.  Brubeck remembers the label's reluctance to release it as a single:   "They said no one would be able to dance to it...I’ve seen people of all ages dance to that song...Joe warned me, 'Dave, you’re going to have to keep that rhythm going when I take a drum solo' [laughs]. Paul and I framed it to feature Joe on drums. If you listen to the original recording, you can hear that the song was built around Joe's drum solo. At any rate, Paul took credit for writing the song...He thought it was his tune. I said, 'All of the tunes are being copyrighted by my company. It will be confusing if you copyright it separately.' He wasn’t crazy about doing it my way but he agreed just the same, adding, 'But it’s going to be my tune.'...The secret is the drumbeat, which was Joe Morello’s. You can't sit still when you hear it...When I first heard Joe play that beat backstage and Paul improvised against it, I said to Paul at our rehearsal for Time Out, 'Try to write down some of your improvisations.'...When he came back to the rehearsal, he said, 'I can’t write anything in 5/4.' I said, 'Well, I just heard you improvising on it and you sounded great.' Paul said, 'I wrote down some of those things.' I said, 'Great, let me see what you have.'...I looked at what Paul had done and said, 'Paul, I can put this together, and it will be a great tune.' We gave it a try, and the approach worked...The title is mine and so were the lyrics: 'Won't you stop and take a little time out with me, just take five. Stop your busy day and take the time out, to see, I'm alive.'...Teo Macero, the album’s producer, said there had to be a cover of the song with words to it. That was Columbia's way of covering its bases with the tricky 5/4 time, to have a vocal version. When I told that to Paul, he said he wanted his Picture 4 father to write them. But they didn’t come in as soon as we needed them. Teo wanted words so Carmen McRae could sing the cover almost immediately... [I finished the lyrics] probably a month or two after. Some lyricist told me later I had written some clever things that didn't quite come across in some of the vocal versions...The second stanza where the melody changes to a major key:'Though I'm going out of my way, just so I can pass by each day; not a single word do we say, it's a pantomime and not a play.' Most singers miss the nuance. 'It’s a pantomime and not a play.' There’s a double meaning there—a play can mean a spoken performance or it can mean a romantic pitch. A lyricist told me that was one of the cleverest lines ever written [laughs]."

Won't you stop and take a little time out with me, just take five;
Stop your busy day and take the time out to see I'm alive.

Though I'm going out of my way,
Just so I can pass by each day,
Not a single word do we say,
It's a pantomime and not a play

Still I know our eyes often meet,
I feel tingles down to my feet,
when you smile that's much too discrete,
sends me on my way.

Wouldn't it be better not to be so polite, you could offer a light;
Start a little conversation now, it's alright, just take five, just take five.

Though I'm going out of my way,
Just so I can pass by each day,
Not a single word do we say,
It's a pantomime and not a play

Still I know our eyes often meet,
I feel tingles down to my feet,
when you smile that's much too discrete,
sends me on my way.

Wouldn't it be better not to be so polite, you could offer a light;
Start a little conversation now, it's alright, just take five, just take five

Carmen McRae version

"Blue Rondo à la Turk"
Brubeck says:  "I think it's equally as important as Take Five. But Columbia wanted to push Take Five. Blue Rondo is based on a street rhythm I heard while we were in Turkey. It's in 9/8 time, with the blues section in 4/4. People loved that song and still do...Take Five is a title you could put on a jukebox and remember more easily in a record store. Blue Rondo a la Turk was too long a song title. In those days the jukebox determined what became a hit. I should have called it just Blue Rondo. Blue Rondo a la Turk wound up on the B-side of the single."

"Three to Get Ready"

'Time Out'
full album:

All compositions by Dave Brubeck, except "Take Five" by Paul Desmond.

Side one
1. "Blue Rondo à la Turk"   6:44
2. "Strange Meadow Lark"   7:22
3. "Take Five"   5:24
Side two
1. "Three to Get Ready"   5:24
2. "Kathy's Waltz"   4:48
3. "Everybody's Jumpin'"   4:23
4. "Pick Up Sticks"   4:16

Original 1959 LP Liner Notes (Copyright Columbia Records) 

Should some cool-minded Martian come to earth and check on the state of our music, he might play through 10,000 jazz records before he found one that wasn't in common 4/4 time.

Considering the emancipation of jazz in other ways, this is a sobering thought ... and an astonishing one. The New Orleans pioneers soon broke free of the tyranny imposed by the easy brass key of B-flat. Men like Coleman Hawkins brought a new chromaticism to jazz. Bird, Diz and Monk broadened its harmonic horizon. Duke Ellington gave it structure, and a wide palette of colors. Yet rhythmically, jazz has not progressed. Born within earshot of the street parade, and with the stirring songs of the Civil War still echoing through the South, jazz music was bounded by the left-right, left-right of marching feet.

Dave Brubeck, pioneer already in so many other fields, is really the first to explore the uncharted seas of compound time. True, some musicians before him experimented with jazz in waltz time, notably Benny Carter and Max Roach. But Dave has gone further, finding still more exotic time signatures, and even laying one rhythm in counterpoint over another.

The outcome of his experiments is this album. Basically it shows the blending of three cultures: the formalism of classical Western music, the freedom of jazz improvisation, and the often complex pulse of African folk music. Brubeck even uses, in the first number, a Turkish folk rhythm.

Blue Rondo à la Turk

Blue Rondo à la Turk plunges straight into the most jazz-remote time signature, 9/8 - grouped not in the usual from (3-3-3) but in 2-2-2-3. When the gusty opening section gives way to a more familiar jazz beat, the three eighth-notes have become equivalent to one quarter-note, and an alternating 9/8 - 4/4 time leads to a fine solo by Paul Desmond. Dave Brubeck follows, with a characteristically neat transition into the heavy block chords which are a familiar facet of his style, and before long "Rondo à la Turk" is a stamping, shouting blues. Later the tension is dropped deliberately for Paul Desmond's re-entry, and for the alternate double-bars of 9- and 4- time which herald the returning theme. The whole piece is in classical rondo form.

Strange Meadow Lark

Strange Meadow Lark opens with Dave Brubeck playing rubato, though there are overtones of 3's and 4's, and the phrase length is an unusual 10 bars. Dave Brubeck's performance throughout is simple and expressive, with fine support from Eugene Wright and Joe Morello .Strange Meadow Lark closes with a contribution from the wistful, dream-like saxophone of Paul Desmond.

Take Five

Take Five is a Paul Desmond composition in 5/4, one of the most defiant time-signatures in all music, for performer and listener alike. Conscious of how easy the listener can lose their way in a quintuple rhythm, Dave Brubeck plays a constant vamp figure throughout, maintaining it even under Joe Morello's drum solo. It is interesting to notice how Joe Morello gradually releases himself from the rigidity of the 5/4 pulse, creating intricate and often startling counter-patterns over the piano figure. And contrary to any normal expectation - perhaps even the composer's! - Take Five really swings.

Three To Get Ready

Three To Get Ready promises, at first hearing, to be a simple 'Haydn-esque' waltz theme in C major. But before long it begins to vacillate between 3- and 4- time, and the pattern become clear: two bars of 3, followed by two bars of 4. It is a metrical scheme which suits Dave Brubeck down to the ground; his solo here is one of the high spots.

Kathy's Waltz

Kathy's Waltz (dedicated to Dave Brubeck's little daughter) starts in 4, only later breaking into quick waltz time. As in the Disney-born "Someday My Prince Will Come", Dave Brubeck starts in triple time, then urges his piano into a rocking slow 4. Theoretically it is as if Joe Morello's three beats had ceased to be the basic pulse, and had become triplets in a slow 4-beat blues -- though with Eugene Wright's 1-in-a-bar bass as the constant link between piano and drums. The listener who keeps abreast of the cross-rhythms here can congratulate themself on sharing with the Brubeck Quartet an enlightened rhythmic sense. Even feet are useless in following a time experiment of such complexity.

Everybody's Jumpin'

Everybody's Jumpin' opens without any precise feeling of key, but with a vague impression of 6/4 time, and a strong beat. Joe Morello's brief drum solo shows again what a superb colourist he is on the canvas of percussion tone.

Pick Up Sticks

With Pick Up Sticks, the earlier hint of 6/4 becomes positive. As so often in Dave Brubeck's time experiments, it is the bass part which supplies the anchor for the listener. This time Eugene Wright plays a regular pattern of six notes: a passacaglia on which is built the whole structure of this closing number. The high spot of "Pick Up Sticks" comes near the close, in a session of commanding piano. This is Dave Brubeck in the grand manner, as exciting as eight brass, but with that feeling of urgent discovery which can never be captured by the arranger's pen.

Time Out

In short: "Time Out" is a first experiment with time, which may well come to be regarded as more than an arrow pointing to the future. Something great has been attempted...and achieved. The very first arrow has found its mark.

Steve Race

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