If you want to kick-start a debate among jazz-lovers, bring up the Dave Brubeck Quartet. If you want to spice it further, raise Take Five, which became a surprise hit two years after appearing on 1959’s Time Out. Despite – or because of – its huge success, many dismissed it as the jazz equivalent of a novelty song. I sided with the masses, enchanted by the melody and Paul Desmond’s diaphanous alto sound, intrigued by the 5/4 groove and startled by Joe Morello’s drum solo.
Now out-takes from the original session have been unearthed, and if you love Time Out you have to hear this. (Thankfully the Brubeck estate opted to pare back the many hours of newly discovered material to a single album.) As the period’s live recordings have already made plain, this was a genuine improvising band, and so you encounter some markedly different rendering of the tunes – none more so than Take Five. Exemplifying improvisation’s ability to be both process and outcome, you hear the piece played at a much brisker tempo, with Morello failing to find the groove that defined the classic version. He also plays a conceptually very different solo, filling the holes, rather than conversing with the vamp.