Sunday Jazz: Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Blue Rondo à la Turk”

This piece originally ran in June 2012. I’m running it again as a very small tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, who passed away on Wednesday, December 5 at age 91.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954
The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954

I’m in the midst of a fairly comprehensive attempt at helping newcomers to jazz build a good music collection. I’ll offer a spoiler here and say that one of the albums on the list is the landmark 1959 Dave Brubeck Quartet record, Time Out.

Time Out was one of the albums that really drew me into jazz when I was in the early days of my exploration, and for good reason. It’s both cerebral and swingin’, and accessible without compromising artistic integrity one bit.

The Paul Desmond composition “Take Five” is probably the group’s most-known song, but I’ve always been partial to the opening cut — Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk.” The way it alternates between 9/8 and 4/4 is inspired, and appealed to the progressive rock fan in me.

Here’s a clip of the classic quartet — Brubeck on piano, Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums — performing the song on “The Lively Ones,” broadcast date July 25, 1962. Dig the magic carpet green-screen effect of the band flying over a Los Angeles freeway.

(Spotify users — you can listen to this and many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

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