Time Out

Dave Brubeck

Columbia, 1959


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


There wasn't a whole lot of innovation that could be brought to the jazz scene in 1959, but pianist Dave Brubeck hit upon an idea that nobody else had thought of during a trip to the Middle East and India.

Playing in a time other than 4/4.

It may seem laughable now, given the dizzying complexity of some jazz and rock music, but it was a new thing that resulted in one of the most unique and interesting jazz discs released, Brubeck's Time Out. Seven songs, 40 minutes, and only a small amount in the standard 4/4 time.

It takes some getting used to, but it is a disc that will stick in your head. Actually, this is the release that got me into jazz; I'd caught snippets of Coltrane and Miles here and there, of course, but I didn't begin to explore the slice of American history until I learned about this in a music class in college.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And what an introduction! Few jazz discs start off with anything as unyielding as "Blue Rondo A La Turk," which is in 9/8 but not played in waltz time, rather in a 2-2-2-3 format. It's an instantly recognizable melody, and not just because it's been adapted by artists as diverse as Bette Midler and Emerson, Lake & Palmer for their pieces. The piece slows into a regular 4/4, which is where Paul Desmond picks up with an alto sax solo, and then the 9/8 and 4/4 are alternated to close out the tune.

The best known song, and one of the few jazz "hits," is "Take Five." Never meant to be a hit, drummer Joe Morello steals the show throughout, keeping a tricky 5/4 time signature until a controlled, intricate solo breaks it up. But listeners will recognize Brubeck's quiet piano and Desmond's passionate yet simple solo. Perhaps most remarkable is that the song is a mix of swing and jazz and breezes by in five minutes.

Those two make the disc worth buying for any music fan, let alone jazz fans, and the other five songs don't stack up to those heights. But by no means are they bad. "Three To Get Ready" starts off as a simple waltz but then alternates between 3- and 4-time, never letting the listener get settled in. Had the piece been fully in 4-time, it would have swung like a mother, but this way works too. "Strange Meadowlark" is pretty good as well, though suffers when sandwiched between "Rondo" and "Take Five."

"Kathy's Waltz" is a nice tribute to Dave's daughter, while "Everybody's Jumpin'" is about the only song that plays it straight here, at least as straight as something in 6/4 time can be. "Pick Up Sticks" closes the disc by showcasing bass player Eugene Wright, who colors the proceedings far more than Desmond's solo. But it is Brubeck who comes through with a long piano solo, closing out with Morello attempting various drum techniques.

The whole of Time Out is a successful experiment, and it is not something jazz purists should avoid because of its non-adherence to regular time. In fact, the disc has become a deserved classic that deserves a spot in any basic jazz collection.

Rating: B+

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By chance, I picked this up at a record store the same day I was looking for a used turntable. One of the best 'on the fly' purchases I've made.

© 2007 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.