Monday December 14, 2020 Smile of the Day: Take Five

On this Day:

Time Out, a studio album by the American jazz group the Dave Brubeck Quartet, is released this day in 1959 on Columbia Records.

Recorded at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City, it is based upon the use of time signatures that were unusual for jazz such as 9/8, 6/4 and 5/4. The album is a subtle blend of cool and West Coast jazz.

The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard pop albums chart, and was the first jazz album to sell a million copies. The single “Take Five” off the album was also the first jazz single to sell one million copies. By 1963, the record had sold 500,000 units, and in 2011 it was certified double platinum by the RIAA, signifying over two million records sold. The album was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 1997, the album was remastered for compact disc by Legacy Recordings. In 2005, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. It was also listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2009 the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet consisted of: Dave Brubeck – piano, Paul Desmond – alto saxophone, Eugene Wright – bass and Joe Morello – drums. The group was initially formed by Dave and Paul. Joe Morello joined a bit later and then Eugene Wright became a permanent member in 1959, making the “classic” Quartet’s personnel complete.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s Brubeck canceled several concerts and tours because the club owners, hall managers or promoters continued to resist the idea of an integrated band on their stages. He also canceled a television appearance when he found out that the producers intended to keep Wright off-camera (Per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What do you call a jazz musician who can play two different types of saxophones? – Bi-saxual.

Second, a Song:

Here is the signature song on the album, “Take Five”. Take Five” has become a jazz standard and was composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond.  Following repeated requests to Brubeck from the Quartet’s drummer, Joe Morello, for a new piece to showcase his facility with 5/4 time, Desmond unwittingly “lucked out… like keno” when Brubeck delegated his saxophonist to contribute a composition in that meter to the Time Out album, using Morello’s rhythm. Desmond delivered two melodies, which Brubeck arranged in ternary form.

Recording “Take Five” proved so torturous for the Quartet that, after 40 minutes and more than 20 failed attempts, producer Teo Macero suspended the first recording session of June 25, 1959 because one or another of the members kept losing the beat. They finally cut the single and album tracks at the next session on July 1.  What happened inside the recording studio was magic – Two years later Take Five became a surprise hit and the biggest-selling jazz single ever (per Wikipedia).

In this version of “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, watch Joe Morello’s drum solo.  Every one in the band stops and turns and listens to Joe as he performs. 


Thought for the Day:

“Jazz stands for freedom. It’s supposed to be the voice of freedom: Get out there and improvise, and take chances, and don’t be a perfectionist – leave that to the classical musicians.” – Dave Brubeck

Further to yesterday’s Alice’s Restaurant Smile, Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada noted that he saw Arlo Guthrie live at the Chan Center in Vancouver in about 2006.  Loved the performance!

The Rev. Bob Beasley of Grimsby, Ontario, Canada also writes:
Thanks for focusing on Alice’s Restaurant. I played this so often on the 8-track player in my car I pretty much had the entire “talking blues” story memorized. I used it recently as the focus of my presentation to our team on storytelling.  It is one of the best examples of storytelling with an unexpected twist that I have ever come across.

If you ever get a chance to head east, try to visit Stockbridge Massachusetts. It is the home of Alice’s Restaurant. Alice closed the restaurant years ago and moved to Cape Cod. Arlo Guthrie now owns the church where Alice lived, which does house a restaurant (Theresa’s Café) and the Guthrie Center, a museum and home of the Guthrie Foundation ( Stockbridge is also the home of Norman Rockwell and the amazing Norman Rockwell Museum, which includes his studio (  All of this makes Stockbridge one of the most interesting and enjoyable towns we have ever visited (and we visit as often as we can.)  

The town has kept things pretty much as it was back in Rockwell’s day – mid-1950s. It is so much fun. The Rockwell Museum is wonderful and many of the tour guides are people from the town who were featured in Rockwell’s paintings (he couldn’t paint a face without a model, and he used locals as models.) They were children then, but are now seniors with an amazing knowledge of Rockwell’s work. The last time we visited our guide was the little African American boy in one of his most iconic paintings. Rockwell was well ahead of his time when it came to the racial issues facing the US in the mid-60s. This painting shows the first black family moving into Stockbridge.

Our guide was the little boy in that family. Notice the adults are peering out from inside their homes, while the children are there to greet the new neighbours.  It was memorable to meet the little boy who was in his 70s when we met him and has been a lifelong resident in Stockbridge. This painting is called “New Kids in the Neighborhood.”

Norman Rockwell | New Kids in the Neighborhood (Negro in the Suburbs)  (1967) | Artsy


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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