The news that Dave Brubeck passed away almost passed me by, I happened to notice a piece pop up in my news feed from the excellent Popular Science. It reminded me of how into Take Five I was as a teenager, when I was exploring Jazz for the first time. It had a similar cool, lyrical quality as some of the other cool jazz greats, but was more accessible, dare I say poppy even.
I can't think of any other guy who hit the charts with a 5/4 groove - Take Five is an effortless example of how to make something rhythmically unusual and make it groovy, something that Mr Brubeck made a career from. The great sax line played by Paul Desmond is one of the iconic sax lines from that time. Paul Desmond actually wrote the tune and when he died in 1977, he left the royalties to the American Red Cross - worth 100k a year.
The album Time Out of 1959, was the first Jazz album to sell a million copies, and is an often forgotten milestone in our musical heritage.
Dave Brubeck was a pioneer of unusual time signatures - as well as the 5/4 of Take Five, Blue Rondo Ala Turk was based around an unusual Turkish rhythm Dave heard (2+2+2+3 followed by one measure of 3 + 3 + 3 and the cycle then repeats.) the wonderfully Pink Panther-esque Unsquare Dance (7/8) and many more.
With a career spanning seven decades, Dave Brubeck started out as a classically trained pianist and made the transition into Jazz and improvisation more successfully than most are able to. He was one of Jazz's first superstars and made it through without suffering the torment of drink or drugs that many of his peers did. He made his mark on modern music and had a darned good run, gigging up until 2011 at the age of 91.