“Take Five” is one of the most significant songs in American music history. Believe it or not, however, Dave Brubeck actually recorded other songs.
Now, I know you’re saying to yourself,
“Wait…Dave Brubeck has other songs besides ‘Take Five?’ Seriously?!”
Yes. It is true. A little known fact—Brubeck actually found the time in his sixty year career to record a few songs not named “Take Five.”
Today, we’d like to share a few with you:
Blue Rondo à la Turk, from Time Out (1959)
This is the other Dave Brubeck song. You have to give credit to him. The way he played with time signatures was just “different” and this is one of the best examples. The story goes that Brubeck overheard some Turkish musicians playing a song with an odd rhythm. When he asked of the song’s peculiar construction, it was said, “This rhythm is to us, what the blues is to you.” And that is how we get a song written in 9/8 and 4/4. The results are something intriguing to American ears, but also appreciated due its underlying cool.
Strange Meadow Lark, from Time Out (1959)
One of my favorite Brubeck compositions, it allows for the master to present his brilliance in a solitary space. By the time the rest of the quartet joins the party, Brubeck has established his undeniable stature. It’s a song, perhaps best described as quaint—extremely understated. In between the cool jazz swing and booming orchestral pieces stood a man that was contradictorily modest. I appreciate this side of Brubeck, as well
Bossa Nova U.S.A., from Bossa Nova U.S.A. (1963)
Few genres have the same level of effect on me as bossa nova. So, when I was first introduced to “Bossa Nova U.S.A.,” naturally, I was ecstatic. “One of the best, doing the best,” I thought. But as I listened, my excitement turned into surprise. This particular song and nearly the entire album, for that matter, were obviously influenced by bossa nova sensibilities, but found structure in the framework of Dave Brubeck’s unique styling. When working in the genre, most had stayed true to its traditional sound. But instead of the artist going to the sound, Brubeck made bossa nova come to him.
I Hear A Rhapsody, from Paper Moon (1981)
Even later on in his career, Brubeck managed to stay true to his earlier sound, making this song a fascinating divergence. You can catch Brubeck in a rare moment of modernity on this classic composition. Also of note is the play of Jerry Bergonzi on tenor saxphone, who actually took a dominant role in the dynamic, making for a great change of pace. There were many incredible recordings of “I Hear A Rhapsody,” but this is definitely one of my all-time favorites.
Any Segment really…, from The Gates of Justice(1969)
It’s hard for me to describe this one. “The Gates of Justice” is one of the most personal pieces ever written by Brubeck. He had a religious awakening after his time in the Army and also found himself, by default, embedded in the era of civil rights injustices. The resulting product is this sweeping cantata that manages to capture the beautiful struggle defining the period in which it was birthed. Attempting to engage the historical similarities between Black and Jewish folks, he weaved Hebrew liturgical modes with Negro spirituals, galvanized with bold choral arrangements. Add the consistent horn section and you get something incredibly powerful. Dave Brubeck was the cool jazz guy, but he really did have much more to offer, both musically and socially.
Joking aside, Dave Brubeck was an architect of jazz’ reclamation of the mainstream. And while “Take Five” could have singlehandedly justified his inclusion in music’s prolific canon, his repertoire is far grander. Brubeck used space and rhythms in a way unparalleled. Removed from the quartet, his robust compositions portrayed the mind of musical genius. We give thanks for Dave Brubeck, in his many forms, as he not only entertained, but taught us for over sixty years.
Written By: Paul Pennington