Jazz & Blues Edge: Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

Credit: BootLoverPhotography

by Ms. Ann



Dave Brubeck (Piano), Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone), Eugene Wright (Bass), and Joe Morello (Drums)


Blue Rondo A La Turk 6:44
Strange Meadow Lark  7:22
Take Five  5:24
Three To Get Ready  5:24
Kathy’s Waltz  4:48
Everybody’s Jumpin’  4:23
Pick Up Sticks  4:16

First published on December 14, 1959.  Recorded by producer Teo Macero and engineer Fred Plaut for Columbia Records in the summer of 1959 at the 30th Street Columbia Studio.

Cover Art by S. Neil Fujita

Everyone has a beginning, a starting point to their introduction to Jazz.  Mine was Big Band music.  My grandmother had Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington 78 rpm vinyl records.  She loved Big Bands and Swing music.  We played the big heavy records on her phonograph and it was amazing for me.  In my school, if you were talented at music you were directed to play in the Jazz Band, which toured more contests and had more funding.  My favorite Band in 1969 was the Stan Kenton Orchestra and in 1970 a new comer to me showed up, Don Ellis with his Jazz/Fusion Orchestra.  Pussy Wiggle Stomp was my favorite tune.  Imagine going into an audition for the Monterey Jazz Festival All Star High School Band in 1971 and the Judge tells you that your knowledge of Jazz, Jazz musicians, all around depth of knowledge and understanding of Jazz is seriously lacking and he makes a list of records and people you need to acquaint yourself with.  At the top of the list was Dave Brubeck and “Time Out” because he thought it would be most accessible to my ears and they were the headline performer group that year at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

I went out and bought my first non-Big Band album and took my first steps into a new direction in the world of jazz.

About the album Time Out:

In 1958 Brubeck, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello had completed a world tour funded by the United States Department of State, performing 80 concerts in over 14 countries, including Turkey, Poland, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.  The band was captivated by local musicians, in particular local Turkish street performers playing traditional folk songs in varying rhythms.  The group returned from this tour in the space of experimenting with polyrhythms, uncommon and un-even time signatures.

This is the first recorded Jazz album to do this, a milestone in Jazz.  This was eleven years before I heard a 5/4 time signature piece by Don Ellis.  “Time Out” is a very clean, impeccable finished product of hummable melodies, effortless feeling, swinging fun songs in uneven (and layering counterpoint rhythms at times) rhythmically innovative time signatures.

Time Out peaked at No. 2 the week of November 27, 1961 on the Billboard Monaural LPs chart, behind only Judy at Carnegie Hall by Judy Garland.

Time Out was the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. The album was certified platinum in 1997 and double platinum in 2011. The single, “Take Five”, also sold over a million.

 Blue Rondo a la Turk is in 2-2-2-3 time contrasted with an easy swinging 4.  This piece is in classic rondo form AABACAB. The theme in 9/4 time contrasted with the saxophone (Paul Desmond) and piano (Brubeck) solos in 4/4. The title is a funny pun on a Mozart piece, “Rondo alla Turca”.  I always feel like I am running and dodging being chased, then I think I’m safe and relax, then oh-no, time to run again.  It is a very light hearted piece.

Strange Meadow Lark is a ballad.  It opens with a piano solo in rubato, and arrhythmical, it is very hard to give it a 3 or 4 beat.  The group joins in and it transitions immediately to a 4/4 swing ballad.  The saxophone is very upbeat-melodic over a great chord progression.

Time Out is a Paul Desmond tune, the only tune released as a single before the album.  It was a huge hit, and now a jazz standard.  It is in 5/4 time.  I find it the happiest-go-lucky-foot-tapping-tune in AABA form.  I love the drum solo by Joe Morello and the counterpoint he explores.

Three to Get Ready is a cool swinging number.  I love the cheerful sax solo and the frolicking punctuated chordal piano solo.  It is set in two bars of 3 beats followed by two bars of 4 beats.

Kathy’s Waltz is dedicated to Dave Brubeck’s daughter, Cathy. It has an interesting metric scheme as it starts in 4/4 time and evolves to double waltz time before becoming two.  Eugene Wright’s spacious single beat to the bar base line and Joe Morello’s brushwork provide the foundation for Brubeck’s lively piano solo.

Everybody’s Jumpin’ plays like a carefree walk through the park.  A toe tapping good time song.

Pick Up Sticks highlights the cool jazz influences of Brubeck’s piano work in 6/4 time.  A thoroughly enjoyable jaunty ride with block piano chords, a melodic alto sax solo, a piano solo with a foundation of riff-based rhythms and a bass ostinato of six notes.

Time Out as an album is the first rock thrown at the mountain to explore time signatures and metric schemes.  It is a very clean, positive, upbeat album.  It is a masterpiece of what it set out to accomplish, and it is a first in this realm of adventurous undertaking.

And sometimes this clean cut, yet innovative work is exactly the stepping stone one needs to find a whole new world of music.