Take Five – Belgium, 1964

The late, great Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) composed several evergreen jazz standards, but “Take Five” might be the most famous.  Several noteworthy elements of this 1964 performance recorded for Belgian television (below) are worth the look and listen.

Paul Desmond’s vibrato and timbre here are enjoyable for several reasons, not the least of which is because they are not overpowering.  The extra air he inserts into some of his notes give his alto saxophone some “movement.”  While solo saxophone is rare in classical music performance, Desmond’s style in this performance would fit nicely.  And this is precisely what makes his solo here so elegant, but occasionally playful and eminently satisfying.

In his surprisingly melancholy solo in this reading, Mr. Brubeck displayed some of the style elements that have clearly influenced pianists like Lyle Mays.

The big star of this video, however, may be Joe Morello (1928-2011), whose segue from Brubeck’s restrained piano solo ramps up the mood considerably.  Keeping the 5/4 time signature and tempo intact, Morello’s excursion here was both tasteful and tasty.  Morello tensioned his floor tom to an almost timpani-like sound, making clever use of it in several places.  In this musician’s opinion, Morello’s solo here is worth the study by any aspiring drummer or percussionist.

I am thankful to the Belgian broadcasters for having recorded this in 1964, especially to audio engineer Jean Muller, whose microphone placement captured many of the nuances of Morello’s drum kit, right down to the crisp flavor of the wooden drumstick tips riding between the bell and the body of the ride cymbal.  I would not be surprised if Monsieur Muller had experience recording chamber orchestras and not merely jazz ensembles.

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