Feb 5, 2014

Dave Brubeck's Time Out: Underrated or Overrated Timeless Classic?

Vintage Stereo LP Cover of Time Out
I used to be in the camp that Time Out was a tad overrated, not grossly overrated mind you, perhaps just not as groundbreaking as it is touted as being.

 The fact it was released in the same year as Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, has lead to much discussion about that mythic year, and Time Out is certainly a part of it.

Brubeck was never considered a ground breaker on the piano, was he? Don't get me wrong, he is fine pianist, with a nice classy block chord heavy sound. Was Paul Desmond considered a firebrand on alto? No!

 I know avant-garde saxophonist Anthony Braxton has said Desmond was influential to him, but really we are not talking about Charlie Parker on alto with Desmond.

The hook here is the odd "for the time" time signatures, by today's standards they seem tame and not at all complex or extraordinary. Even in hindsight I don't get excited, a lot of great progressive jazz was being made at the time.

The Exotic nature of "Blue Rondo a la Turk's" 9/8 Balkan pulse, and the pulsating 5/4 rhythm of "Take Five", with Desmond's surprisingly sultry sounding alto is quite interesting.

The world music charms are shining through, but I am not feeling the groundbreaking nature. Parker and Gillespie, and Stan Kenton's bands were playing more complex music than this years before, of course people never give Stan Kenton his due either.

So what do I have against Time Out? Nothing! It's a fantastic album, I have tried to it analyze over and over, it's  simply not as good as Kind of Blue, or Mingus Ah Um, and Ornette's Shape of Jazz to Come.  Comparatively Time Out seems bland to me.

So why do I return to Time Out as much as those records mentioned above? Well for one. Desmond's "Take Five" is just sublime, and could be right at home on Kind of Blue. In fact, I always wished Miles and his second great quintet would have covered it, you know like "Freedom Jazz Dance" and "Ginger Bread Boy" on Miles Smiles?

 Forgive me, I like thinking in my minds eye sometimes what-if jazz scenarios like that.

Time Out is just a damn good album, and really it's pointless trying to pick it apart I suppose. I like "Rondo","Take Five", "3 to Get Ready", and "Pick Up Sticks" very much.

So in the end, Time Out is what it is, critically the 4th best of those big 4 from 1959. I know this though: More people have Time Out in their music library than Anything from Mingus or Coleman... and there isn't anything wrong with that I guess.

P.S. John Coltrane's Giant Steps was released in 1960, not 1959 like many believe, I thought I would mention that before I am called on the carpet for the omission above.


By the way, you can still get nice vinyl copies of Time Out for hardly anything. I have sold more than a few myself for less than 20 bucks, you could probably get a Columbia 2 eye copy for under 10 bucks, and a 70's pressing for 5 dollars.

Just a supply issue the low prices, they are still out there in large numbers. I have both the stereo and mono 6 eye versions, I do prefer the stereo.

Be honest, "Take Five" really holds up well 50 plus years later, even though I feel like the rest of the album is a bit overrated, not by a lot:)

 "Take Five" is one of those Modern jazz classics that even next to Davis' "So What" does hold its own quite well.

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