Ray turned 84 today.
You know Ray. He’s my dad, the guy who lives at Ray’s Corner, the apartment with the loud music, and the place where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.
When my dad gave away his record collection a couple of years ago, I got first dibs. One of the records I kept was this one:
“Time Out,” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, from 1959. Dad played it often when we were kids.
Turns out this record is celebrating a birthday, too. It was recorded 50 years ago this summer. NPR’s “All Things Considered” had a nice piece about it last week.
Though this album came out in 1959, its biggest splash came two years later, when “Take Five” became the first million-selling jazz single on the Billboard charts.
They must have played it on the radio at the time, because I couldn’t otherwise begin to imagine where Dad, then in his mid-30s, might have heard “Take Five” and dug it enough to buy the album. At the time, we were living in Ironwood, Michigan, an all-but-played-out iron mining town not far from Lake Superior in the most distant corner of the Upper Peninsula.
“Time Out” was, and is, notable for experimenting with time signatures other than 4/4. Here’s what the liner notes say about “Take Five,” which was composed by sax player Paul Desmond, one of Brubeck’s longtime collaborators:
“‘Take Five’ is a Desmond composition in 5/4, one of the most defiant signatures in all music, for performer and listener alike. Conscious of how easily the listener can lose his way in a quintuple rhythm, Dave plays a constant vamp figure throughout, maintaining it even under Joe Morello’s drum solo. It is interesting to notice how Morello gradually releases himself from the rigidity of the 5/4 pulse, creating intricate and often startling counter-patterns over the piano figure. And contrary to any normal expectations — perhaps even the composer’s! — ‘Take Five’ really swings.”
OK, class dismissed. Time to dig it.
Here’s a cover, one that uses the Brubeck original as a jumping-off point for a stone funk arrangement full of horns and wah-wah guitar. Probably not Dad’s thing, but I like it.