DAVE BRUBECK — Time Out (review)

DAVE BRUBECK — Time Out album cover Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
A Cool Jazz classic. Not a five star album for me, but that's more of a personal thing rather than a reflection on the quality of the recording, composing or playing. All of which are superb.

'Time Out' is a giant album, pushed up to number two on the pop charts at the time of its release by the Desmond hit, 'Take Five' one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable pieces of jazz music in history. Fans of the Cool genre ought to at least hear this album, if not for the beautiful 'Strange Meadowlark' or 'Three to Get Ready' then for the oddly satisfying 'Blue Rondo a la Turk' with it's 9/8 head and swinging middle. (And swing is something the band does with both sophistication and melody, at the same time remaining quite inventive - for the most part during the first thirty minutes, this inventiveness only dipping with the last two pieces.)

While 'Take Five' is cool indeed, this recording is eclipsed by various live versions of the piece, when the tempo is increased and Brubeck and Desmond are given more room to improvise and solo. It's hardly a low point on 'Time Out.' It's still fantastic, but hear the six-plus minutes version from the Sony Essential Jazz release and you'll see what I mean.

Probably the most impressive thing about this album is how relaxed and easy Brubeck's band make it sound, all the while running wild between mixed up structures and shifting time signatures - rather than long soloing over more unchanging rhythms, everyone is moving and changing together. Brubeck is especially soothing throughout, dissonance is no-where to be heard here. His lovely solo-introduction to 'Strange Meadowlark' (the stand out piece) is only matched by his attentive rhythm playing. Instead of the internal tension that can be found in some fusion (which certainly builds excitement), this album, like so much cool jazz, is (unsurprisingly) about complimentary work.

Across the album as a whole, there isn't any chance of the band straying to anything close to an explosion of hard bop (understandable on a 'cool' recording) but being a quartet of drums, bass, piano and sax, it doesn't have the wider tonal palette available if say, a trumpet or some other fifth (lead) voice was introduced. This is a minor quibble for me, but sometimes Desmond's phrasing is so distinctive (and sweet perhaps) that it becomes predictable to my ears, which may also be a reflection of the amount of times I've heard it.

Probably the perfect, if obvious, place to start with Brubeck, and because it's such a contrast to the at-times brooding 'Kind of Blue,' maybe not a bad introduction to the Cool genre either.
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