Sunday, December 4, 2011
"Time Out" by The Dave Brubeck Quartet (June, 1960)
Dave who? That's what I thought when I got to this on our list. But right when the first track began, I knew I was going to remember Dave Brubeck from then on.
On the opening track, "Blue Rondo A La Truk," I was taken by surprise. Dave Brubeck shows no mercy on that piano! He pounds on it like each of his fingers are hammers, but then, out of nowhere, he turns his hammer-hands into cooked baby carrots which make for a very delicate and soft sound, of course.
This is a great jazz album. It's got the upbeat swing stuff all the way down to the mellow nighttime "I'll be in the back of this empty, cold, dark bar at a table sipping a drink all alone" stuff. And sometimes all those different jazz sub-genres come together in single songs. Also, to make it more fun and interesting for the listener, and probably the band itself, they wrote stuff in super weird time signatures that I can't even comprehend, and even showcased Joe Morello's awesome boomy drum solo in the middle of the song "Take Five."
Although this album got negative feedback from critics when it was originally released, there's no surprise that it eventually made its way on to lists such as "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die."
This is the kind of jazz I like. I like how Brubeck and his quartet explore everything from traditional jazz to swing and blues and even a bit of R&B and waltz music, all within a single number. It's like nothing is off limits, and they're going to go wherever the music leads them. The goal of "Take Five" was to explore unusual time signatures, and Brubeck succeeds, going all over the place but without ever becoming unlistenable. Everything fits together so well that you hardly even notice that this is experimental music. You can't get bored when the music captures your attention and creates suspense that makes you think it will go one way, and then it twists in an unexpected direction. To me, that's just plain fun.
Brubeck's piano leads the way, but he gives plenty of time to the rest of his combo. Paul Desmond on alto sax adds musical candy, with extra sweetness from Eugene Wright's restrained bass and Joe Morello's steady-but-never-monotonous skins. Brad pointed out Morello's solo on "Take Five," which is one of the most musical drum solos I've ever heard.
"Take Five" is the best known piece here, and it is sheer delight, but it's not the only cut worth listening to. The album is solid from beginning to end. It might be a step below Miles Davis's "Kind Of Blue," but it's a very small step.