Song Of The Day: Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five'

Apr 2, 2014

Welcome to Day 2 of Jazz Appreciation Month! Today we turn our ears to Dave Brubeck, another one of the towering figures in jazz.

Brubeck had a 60-year career and played into his 80s before he passed away last year. Loved by many, he is one of the few jazz artists to cross over to a non-jazz audience. He released an album called “Time Out” in 1959 with his quartet that was the first jazz album to be certified platinum (1,000,000 copies sold).

The album was based on Brubeck’s search for the new, with all of the songs being in different time signatures. Most of the songs we listen to have four beats per measure. Brubeck experimented with songs that had five, six, nine, 13 beats per measure. This gives the tunes a very different rhythmic feel, as you’ll hear in today’s song, called “Take Five.” Written by Brubeck’s longtime collaborator and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, the song has five beats per measure and went on to become a Top 40 hit single — something that rarely happens to a jazz tune.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet stayed together for decades and really developed a signature group sound. Much of it was due to Desmond and his smooth, dry sound on the sax. While other saxophone players were playing fast and brash, Desmond chose to lay back and play sweetly. Players like him helped develop what became known as “cool jazz” or the “West Coast sound.”
So here, from “Time Out,” is the classic “Take Five.” See if you can count along and really feel the five-beat rhythm. 

One other notable fact about Brubeck: he appeared on the cover of Time magazine in November 1954. This made him uncomfortable because, as a white jazz musician, he was aware that the music he was playing was historically African-American.

In 2010 he told the LA Times, "Seven in the morning, there's a knock at the door and there's Duke [Ellington] handing me the magazine and saying, 'Dave, you're on the cover.' He was happy for me, but I was just so disappointed because it should have been him. They got around to him finally a couple of years later. But … it just bothered me," he said.
On Wednesday, we’ll feature Ellington and his great band.


Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz trumpet player, educator and writer. His band, The Jason Parker Quartet, was hailed by Earshot Jazz as "the next generation of Seattle jazz." Find out more about Jason and his music at