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Pianist/Composer Dave Brubeck’s Centennial TIME OUT TAKES of unheard 1959 recordings

In celebration of the late jazz piano master, Dave Brubeck, who would have turned 100 years old on December 6, 2020, his family and promoters have launched unreleased recordings from his 1959 studio sessions for the Columbia Record album, Time Out, which was the first jazz album ever to sell a million copies. The alternate takes on seven songs, now issued by the new Brubeck Editions record label, give the listener familiar with Brubeck’s music, a joy ride through these timeless and memorable compositions…which is why this newly released album is entitled Time Out Takes. Enhancing the CD album are the extensive liner notes written by Brubeck’s children (the males all being musicians) and commentators, such as Professor of History and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Douglas Brinkley , and multi-Grammy winning producer, Kabir Sehgal.

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Brinkley gives anecdotal stories quoting the then President Bill Clinton’s chat with Brubeck who was so surprised to learn that “Blue Rondo a la Turk” was his favourite song on the Time Out album, that he challenged the President to ‘hum the bridge’ which was in 9/8 time. Apparently, Clinton hummed it correctly!

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Sehgal remarks about the 40-minute recording session of “Take Five”: “There were many takes of this song, as the band struggled to gel over the 5/4 meter. The song was supposed to stand on its own as a drum feature. Little did they know it would become on the most celebrated anthems of jazz and American culture.”

A highlight of these alternate recordings is the band members’ chatter as they arrange and rearrange songs in the first three recording sessions. Listening to the last track, “Band Banter”, steers one’s curiosity to understand how these four men created, explored, and even became frustrated and impatient over just getting it right – the sound, the rhythm meters, the technique – but always with Brubeck’s gentle coaching. This is a fascinating 4 minutes 35 seconds of aural exploration.

The polyrhythms in unusual meters as 5/4 (like in “Take Five”), 9/8 (like in “Blue Rondo a la Turk) and 6/4 time (like in “Three to Get Ready”) are all there in characteristic Brubeck style with his famous quartet of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, the drummer Joe Morello, and the bassist Eugene Wright, who was Black and challenged to move with the band in those apartheid spots of southern United States practicing racism and segregation towards people of colour. Brubeck conscientiously refused to perform there.

As multi-instrumentalist son Chris Brubeck has said, “These newly discovered recordings feature wonderful performances that are every bit as compelling as their famous counterparts!” ‘Family Insights’ in the album’s Liner Notes reveal their deep love for the musicians:

“Throughout our lives, these honorary uncles encouraged us and were an important part of our extended family…, the melodic lyricism of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, the intense swing and technical brilliance of drummer Joe Morello, the deep, dependable bass grooves laid down by bassist Gene Wright and the undeniable inventiveness of our father’s piano prowess — polytonal, polyrhythmic, swinging and playful. His compositions were fresh, the odd time signatures “game-changing”, and his tunes served as a springboard for innovative solos.”

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Joe Morello-courtesy Jazz Times

Pianist son Darius Brubeck remarks in the Liner Notes that his father
“could invent rhythms that hadn’t been used in jazz. ‘Three to Get Ready,’ with two bars of 3 /4 followed by two bars of 4/4, is an alternation of waltz and swing that implies a humorous dialogue between styles…. I would have chosen this version of ‘Three To Get Ready’ even then because Dave’s solo is so adventurous and compositionally advanced. The ‘dialogue’ becomes an ‘argument’ with overlaps and interruptions and flashes of virtuosity leading to reconciliation.”

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Darius Brubeck

Remarking about Dave’s composition, ‘Strange Meadowlark’, cellist son Matt Brubeck recalls: “I recall my father listening to birdsong and pointing out little scraps of tunes to me as we took walks together when I was young.”

Drummer son Dan Brubeck says he fell in love with drummer Joe Morella’s ‘Take Five’ with its” 5/4 Krupa-like drum solo, while showing off some of Joe’s incomparable left hand and bass drum technique. Daughter Cathy Brubeck Yaghsizian’s dance antics during her brothers’ and Dave’s rehearsals won her cudos in father Dave’s heart, and a song named after her, ‘Cathy’s Waltz’.

The COVID-19 pandemic has suspended some, but not all, well-intentioned centennial live concerts, events, symposia and exhibitions planned to mark Brubeck’s legacy during 2020 and 2021. Check them at https://www.davebrubeck.com/calendar. Darius writes about a dazzling start to year 2020 in establishing the Brubeck Living Legacy, a family-run charitable trust, and setting up an exhibition of Dave’s works in the legendary birthplace of jazz, New Orleans.

Siblings Darius and Dan had even contracted a bad case of the COVID-19 virus while performing Brubecks Play Brubeck concerts in the U.K. (at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club). However, the Brubeck siblings, who are scattered between Canada, Connecticut (USA) and England, worked closely with two authors, details at http://www.davebrubeckjazz.com/Centennial/Books : about Philip Clark’s new biography, Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, and Stephen Crist’s Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, focusing on this significant and popular jazz LP of all time. It was Crist who informed the Brubeck family that he had discovered outtakes from the Time Out sessions while researching archives for his book. Besides the new Brubeck Editions recording label being established, it has produced two albums in 2020: the Time Out Takes album, and Brubeck’s last studio album, Lullabies, recorded for his grandchildren.

What will some Brubecks be doing to celebrate December 6? Chris and wife Tish will be listening to Dave’s orchestral and jazz recordings along with reviewing other music associated with Dave’s career for consideration as next releases for the new Brubeck Editions label. Darius writes:

“If this year hadn’t been so crazy we would have planned a party at my parents’ wonderful house in Wilton Connecticut but we’ll have to settle for a family toast across continents, oceans and time-zones to Dave’s 100th on Sunday.”

Available for purchase and download from major platforms: http://Time OutTakes (ffm.to) including Amazon, and MVD Entertainment Group for CD, LP, and Digital. Follow the twitter news on Dave Brubeck http://@TheDaveBrubeck) / Twitter.

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