Take Five From Wine And Imbibe Genius
It’s been called the best five minutes in the history of Jazz.
I’d be hard pressed to deny this assessment of “Take Five”, the great composition by Paul Desmond and performance to perfection by Dave Brubeck, who died today at 91 years of age.
Many wine lovers will point to a particular wine and insist it was the wine that put them on the road to wine geekdom. For me it was never one wine. But I can say this: Whenever someone tells me they don’t “GET” jazz or doesn’t like jazz or don’t understand Jazz, I always sit them down and ask them to listen to “Take Five”. It is a composition of monumental beauty and among the tightest performances and recordings of all time. Its percussion line is haunting. Its melody (such as it is) is among the most memorable you and recognizable in all of American music.
Dave Brubeck’s last individual recording came in 2007 at 86 years of age when he released “Indian Summer”. This long and winding set of ballads could easily serve as his own requiem. The name of the recording and the melodic, slow, intensely introspective nature of the songs (both original compositions and otherwise) hint at end of life contemplations.
But then, there is “Take Fave”. If you have never listened to this recording with intent, I urge you to put on headphones or ear buds or whatever it is you use to concentrate your mind on audio, sit back and listen. It’s only just over five minutes long. But what you will hear is aural genius that will be listened to and gawked at for as long as we listen to music. It has been my habit to do just this on a regular basis, almost always sucking up “Take Five” with bourbon in hand.
Brubeck’s “Take Five” is driven forward by a compelling saxophone melody, supported by one of the most insistent uses of a mere two chords ever put to use by a piano in a song. Finally, you have the drums. The drum solo in “Take Five” will be called by some the greatest in jazz history. It is a powerful endorsement of “negative space” in music. It drags the listener on as the two piano chords follow along, become every more evident and competitive. It is thrilling.
The passing of Dave Brubeck brings to an end the life of one of America’s greatest musicians and certainly one of the top jazz pianist ever to walk the earth. It is similar to the passing of a Robert Mondavi or Ernest Gallo of Andre Tchelistcheff. We mourn their passing yet stand back and marvel at the gifts they gave to their profession.
Take five from wine today to sit back and celebrate the life of Dave Brubeck.