DAVE BRUBECK — Time Out (review)

DAVE BRUBECK — Time Out album cover Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
I confess. I’m bonkers for Brubeck. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have very many of his albums because I’d be listening to his music way too often and that would hinder me from discovering and learning about other artists. But when I put on a record like his “Impressions of New York” every muscle in my body relaxes, my mind clears and I bathe in a brand of jazz music that goes right to my very soul. He is a giant among titans and deserves every accolade that has ever been tossed his way. And the quartet he put together in the 50s has to be ranked with one of the greatest of all time. I offer the incredible “Time Out” as proof.

1959 is acknowledged as a watershed year for our preferred genre. While it’s true that the American public was still enamored with light pop ditties such as Frankie Avalon’s “Venus,” Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy” and Johnny Preston’s novelty item “Running Bear” in the jazz world Miles Davis released the game-changing “Kind of Blue,” John Coltrane put out his stunning “Giant Steps” and Ornette Coleman shook the place up with his “Shape of Jazz to Come” LP. And, on December 14th of that crucial year, Dave and his cohorts put the cherry on the sundae with “Time Out.” It was a record that specialized in utilizing unorthodox time signatures and featured a racially integrated group causing Columbia Records to entertain some worry but, perhaps due to the stir aroused by the aforementioned vinyl discs, they decided to let the public decide what they were ready to hear and the result was astonishingly positive. They weren’t just ready for it; they ate it up like chocolate cake.

Dave and his bunch couldn’t have opened with a more sublime tune than “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Despite its playful 9/8 pattern this song’s infectiousness made common folk realize that jazz could retain its complexity without being discordant, weird or off-putting. The great Paul Desmond’s saxophone tone is like rich butter and Brubeck’s piano work is sly as a fox. I could play this number for a person who’d never heard a lick of jazz in his life with full confidence that they would be intrigued. “Strange Meadow Lark” begins as a gorgeous, flowing piano piece that entrances for over two minutes before Eugene Wright on double bass and Joe Morello on the drums enter to lay down a seamless shuffle as Paul takes over on sax and paints an impressionistic scene with deep pastel colorings. But this is, after all, Brubeck’s baby and he eventually guides it deftly to a graceful ending.

Is there a more iconic jazz tune than “Take Five”? I doubt it. It may have equals in worldwide familiarity but no superiors. Simply put, it has one of the most recognizable jazz melodies ever conceived and this magical gem from the mind of Paul Desmond hasn’t lost an iota of its charm and seductive nature in well over half a century. The fact that it rose to #25 on the pop singles charts will tell you volumes about what it did to make jazz even more palatable to the masses. And Morello’s inventive drum solo is one for the ages. “Three to Get Ready” is next and its clever abutment of 6/4 and 8/4 measures is remarkable because they made it sound as natural as a thankful sigh. I’m fascinated by how Dave and Paul inject their individual personalities into their performances as the tight rhythm section holds the track together expertly. The melodic structure of the number is rapturous.

A smooth-as-silk groove draws you into “Kathy’s Waltz,” and then the band crosses over into a sultry 3/4 feel for Brubeck and Desmond’s rides to cruise atop. Dave’s basic piano theme disguises the immense depth that this song possesses. “Everybody’s Jumpin’” follows and it’s the most aggressive tune on the record. They create tension through the use of staccato phrasing and then bridge the contrasting sections together with a friendly, swinging shuffle beat. If you don’t know how much of a master of dynamics Joe Morello was on the trap kit then give this cut a listen and you’ll get educated post haste. The quartet walks with long strides through the closer, “Pick Up Sticks.” I find it enthralling to hear how Dave and Paul so consistently complimented each other’s styles without ever being at odds. And, as an added treat, the song has one of the more unusual and yet cool endings you’ll ever come across in jazzland.

“Time Out” is a masterpiece of modern jazz. It’s intellectual yet personable. It’s challenging while putting you completely at ease. It’s unquestionably unique and what it did for jazz music in general can’t be calculated. (Not to mention the striking cover art by S. Neil Fujita that altered forevermore the status quo in the area of how to market this kind of music visually and grab the attention of the average Joseph.) While it took some time to integrate itself into the mainstream this record was not to be denied and peaked at #2 on the album charts in 1961. Planet-wise it has sold well over a million units and several of its themes continue to be heard often no matter what direction popular music takes. Dave Brubeck deserves your respect and you owe it to yourself to investigate his genius. I can think of no better place to start than with “Time Out.”
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more than 2 years ago
Yeah! Ace album and ace review!


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