Brubeck and his quartet usher in a new era of jazz on 1959 masterpiece
Dave Brubeck emerged after the Second World War as a pianist whose eclectic style owed itself to several different schools of piano playing. Throughout the 1950’s, Brubeck enjoyed as much commercial success as any jazz musician could have wished for, becoming one of the biggest acts in the business. Famous mostly for his experiments with rhythm, influenced equally as much by Bach as he was by swing, his compositions would betray sophisticated time signatures intertwined with classical references.
Brubeck had an obsession with complicated metre, something which saxophonist Paul Desmond and drummer Joe Morello had no trouble in complementing much less executing. Released in 1959 on Columbia Records, the same label that Miles Davis was signed to, Time Out was poorly received by critics, though it soon took off, selling over 50,000 copies, eventually peaking at #2 on the Billboard charts.
Opener “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is a unique hybrid of Turkish folk and Classical composition. The tune is both arty and accessible at the same time, a trademark of Brubeck’s somewhat eccentric style and approach. “Strange Meadow Lark” carries the listener on a journey that is melodic as it is indeed strange, thanks to Paul Desmond’s alto saxophone, and Brubeck’s plaintive piano solo. “Take Five”, written by Desmond, was and remains the tune most people associate with the album, and despite over familiarity, it really does deserve its place as one of the great jazz masterpieces ever recorded. To hear Desmond stretch time along with Morello’s polyrhythmic drumming is like fine dining for the ear.
The intelligent ambiance continues with “Three To Get Ready”, a sort of Teddy Bears picnic for jazz players, while “Kathy’s Waltz” is another delightfully cerebral excursion guaranteed to stimulate the old gray matter, like elevator music for neurologists. “Everybody’s Jumpin’” swings along just nicely, even if it is unlikely to get all those beatniks off their chairs and forget about Arthur Rimbaud for several minutes. Final track “Pick Up Sticks” is another stylish number, so much so that if a song could be tailored into a stylish suit, then it might just resemble something such as this.
Along with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Time Out contains some of the most recognizable and memorable tunes in the entire history of jazz. It is an album which ruminates and vibrates with refined excellence. Brubeck’s style often depended on ringing chords and dramatic crescendos, and yet whose semi-classical piano explorations were some of the coolest in town.
Time Out is an engaging, sometimes hypnotic experience on which Dave Brubeck and his Quartet’s creative talents are on full display. No jazz collection would be complete without it.