When the Dave Brubeck Quartet dropped Time Out in 1959, it instantly became the pied piper for a new, cool, cerebral movement in jazz. By 1954 Brubeck had already made the cover of Time magazine due to his widespread popularity on college campuses and his globetrotting work as a jazz ambassador abroad. But it was Time Out that captured the imaginations of Americans, creating a generation of new jazz fans in the process and becoming the first million-seller in jazz history. Recorded the same year and in the same 30th Street Studio owned by Columbia Records where a few months earlier Miles Davis had recorded his classic Kind of Blue, Brubeck’s Time Out grabbed the ears of the record-buying public on the strength of such hypnotic and beguiling numbers as the 5/4 “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” which shifts nimbly back and forth from 9/8 to a bluesy 4/4. Those tunes have become part of the DNA of jazz aficionados. We know every note and passage and solo by Messrs. Brubeck, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello.
And now comes Time OutTakes to shatter our comforting memories of those cherished tunes. Much like the 2019 archival release of John Coltrane’s Blue World altered our long-held perceptions of “Naima,” Time OutTakes provides fascinating alternate takes on those iconic tunes from 1959. A celebration of Brubeck’s centennial, it is the first release by the family-owned Brubeck Editions label, dedicated to preserving and promulgating the jazz icon’s legacy. Containing tracks that were originally recorded on the workhorse machine for the Columbia Records 30th Street Studios, an Ampex 300 3-track running on 1/2-inch tape, Time OutTakes was engineered by longtime Brubeck brothers collaborator Scott Petito of NRS Recording in Catskill, New York.
“My father’s unique contract with Columbia Records entitled him to eventually retain ownership of his recordings,” said bassist-bass trombonist Chris Brubeck, who played alongside his father in Two Generations of Brubeck in the 70s, The Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 80s and Trio Brubeck in the 90s. “The Brubeck Family has the rights to all of The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s many recordings for Columbia, including all outtakes. So this unusual position makes possible our dream of having a family record company, Brubeck Editions. Our mission is to listen, carefully choose, mix and release well-performed, previously unavailable music. We also receive other recordings from sources all around the world and plan to include a selection of them in our future releases. Time OutTakes is going to hopefully be a solid foundational recording upon which we build our label.”
Chris and his siblings, Darius and Dan, were originally tipped off to the existence of previously unheard outtakes from the original 1959 Time Out sessions by authors Philip Clark and Stephen A. Crist. As Chris recalled, “They stumbled across these outtakes in their research for their books, and hearing this stuff, for me, was like pirates discovering a chest full of doubloons or something. And I sincerely think that some of the takes that were discarded are better than what was on Time Out.”
He pointed to his father’s playing on “Blue Rondo a La Turk,” for instance. “He plays 10 choruses on there, and the way he keeps referencing back to the main theme and then making it polytonal and displacing it rhythmically is so great. It’s a very compositionally integrated version. And I don’t know for a fact but I’m pretty damn sure that when they did that take that (producer) Teo Macero probably said, ‘Hey Dave, that was great but you played way too long.’ And so the final ‘Blue Rondo’ that’s on Time Out has him playing only three or four choruses. With 18 minutes a side, Teo’s job as a producer would be to say, ‘You guys should do a shorter version.’ But that doesn’t mean the long version isn’t great.”
The alternate “Take Five” reveals other surprises. The tempo is faster compared to the original and Joe Morello’s approach on his drum solo is decidedly different than his historic solo from Time Out; notably, the band drops out rather than Brubeck putting up that mesmerizing, almost montuno-like 5/4 comp behind the solo. Playing a strictly unaccompanied solo, Morello resorts to more of a straight ahead approach than his storytelling approach incorporating dramatic use of space and unexpected accents that appear on the Time Out version. Said Chris Brubeck, “When they originally did ‘Take Five’ they were thinking, ‘This is a little ditty that we’re coming up with to make sure that Joe has a drum solo.’ They had no idea this would become the biggest selling jazz single of all time.”
The Brubeck brothers also discovered 45 minutes of tape where the quartet tries to figure out how to play “Take Five” and Morello is struggling to get the right beat. “Finally Paul goes, ‘I’m waiting, Joe! Should I go get a cup of coffee?’ And as far as Dave’s famous vamp, I think it evolved right there in the studio when he realized that Gene and Joe were not getting glued together in this 5/4 thing. You know, necessity is the mother of invention, and I think that’s where that riff came up. And then Paul’s melody was all over the place. That was not developed at all. So there are slight differences in the melody in the take that we chose, which was one of the one of two complete takes they got out of 40 minutes of trying to figure it out. And at some point you hear Dave saying, ‘I don’t know, maybe we should just come back to this.’ And then Teo goes, ‘Yeah, I think you should just come back to this.’ The take we used was from the second evening session on June 25. The version you hear on Time Out came from a later session on July 1.”
Time OutTakes also includes alternate versions of “Three to Get Ready” (a brushes showcase for Morello), “Cathy’s Waltz” (named for Dave Brubeck’s daughter), and “Strange Meadowlark.” Said Chris of the latter, perhaps the most lyrical offering on the collection, “We think that this take is Dave’s best played piano intro and Paul’s best sax solo, with the “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” reference in his improvised melody.”
Two new musical revelations on Time OutTakes include a previously unheard studio version of “I’m in a Dancing Mood,” which the Brubeck Quartet often trotted out for TV appearances. As Chris explained, “This complex arrangement was devised to please TV floor directors who gave the group three minutes and wanted a fast, up and swinging tune, a lyrical jazz waltz a la ‘Someday My Prince Will Come,’ and a Latin groove. So they came up with this arrangement which covers all that territory in around three minutes, switching grooves on a dime.”
The other revelation here is “Watusi Jam,” a spontaneous trio performance that the Brubeck family found unmarked on the session tapes that features Dave, Gene, and Joe jamming over a 6/4 bass ostinato. “I’m guessing because you don’t hear Teo’s voice explaining anything that he and Paul may have been out having dinner and a beer and were late getting back to the session,” said Chris. “And it totally fits my father’s personality, too. I can just hear him going, ‘Hey, man, I’m getting charged for the studio time so we’re not going to sit here and do nothing.’” Another feature for Morello’s gift for melodic drumming, “Watusi Jam” was recorded years later on 1966’s Time In as “Watusi Drums,” though it was played with a very different fast shuffle feel.