Take Five And India

Recognised by its distinctive catchy saxophone melody; imaginative, jolting drum solo; and use of the unusual quintuple (5/4) time signature, the jazz standard ‘Take Five’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet was not the first jazz composition that used the quintuple meter but it was one of the first in the United States to achieve mainstream significance in 1961. 

The Dave Brubeck Quartet. 

From left: Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, and Gene Wright.

A time signature is a sign, found in the form of a numerical fraction, of which the numerator represents the number of beats per measure and the denominator stands for the type of note value that equals one beat. It is found at the beginning of pieces, positioned after the key signature. The name 'Take Five' is derived from its unusual quintuple-time signature. Written by legendary saxophonist, Paul Desmond the song came from the album Time Out and is the first jazz LP to sell one million copies and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In 1956 the US State Department launched the “Jazz Ambassadors” program, which aimed to promote American culture abroad (and allay concerns about racial tensions in the US) by sending musicians around the world. The ambassadors included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie — and pianist Dave Brubeck, who was inspired to explore non-western rhythms which resulted in Timeout. A slow-burner at first but two years after the album’s release it spawned a hit single: Take Five. Ironically, Columbia Records only allowed the album to be released under the assumption that the quartet would go back to recording jazz standards for subsequent projects.

An extract from "The Music Aficionado" on the creation of “Time Out” first published in 2019 states

Various accounts tell different stories about the origin of Take Five, but they all point to (the band) Joe Morello’s musical experiences in India. Some say Indian jazz drummer Leslie Godinho introduced him to the rhythm, others identify mridangam (a double-sided Indian hand drum) maestro Palani Subramania Pillai as the one who did the trick. Either way, it is certain that the complexity of Indian rhythms played a major role in Morello’s playing of the Take Five groove, one of the most addictive and best-known drum patterns ever to be recorded. More from Desmond’s diary: “Another session with Indian musicians at All India Radio – pretty much a mutual admiration society for rhythm men. Joe impressed by hand technique, odd meters (5, 7, 11).

Paul Desmond, the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s alto saxophonist, had written “Take Five” in order to showcase Joe Morello’s drum solo — although in the event, a shorter version was released as a single with only a very brief drum solo (it had to be under three minutes in order to receive radio airplay).

A conversation with Louiz Banks, widely regarded as the Godfather of Jazz in India, clears it all-

Q: The Dave Brubeck Quartet visited the Middle East, India, and Eastern Europe in 1958 as part of a tour sponsored by the US State Department. The journey led to the recording of Brubeck's 1959 album "Time Out", which featured time signatures other than the traditional 4/4 employed in jazz. Throughout the tour, the group interacted with local musicians, and those experiences left a deep impression and inspired them to explore non-western rhythms which were very different from what they knew and played. The classic jazz standard "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck Quartet has several distinct Genesis stories. Some associate it with the Middle East and pianist Dave Brubeck, who was inspired after hearing about Bulgarian street musicians on his visit to Turkey.  A theory doing the rounds [among jazz students in India] states that Paul Desmond wrote "Take Five" after meeting Indian musicians and drawing inspiration from their polyrhythmic patterns as between performances, the band would jam with some of India's great musicians, including Abdul Jaffer Khan on sitar, different Indian tabla players, and sat in with Indian jazzmen who frequently performed in the restaurants that lined Churchgate Street. Indian jazzmen have consistently claimed that "Take Five" was the direct outcome of a lesson Indian jazz drummer Leslie Godinho gave Brubeck's percussionist Joe Morello in a hotel room in Delhi in 1958 since the song's debut in 1959. The legend is that Godinho taught Morello how to play Take Five's essential 5/4 time signature. What would be your take on the creation of Take Five?

Louiz Banks: These stories are so interesting. I know Leslie Godinho.. we have jammed together on many occasions.. super drummer!! So Take Five was the outcome of Leslie’s few drum lessons to Joe Morello on odd time signatures and Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck got the idea for a tune in 5/4 .. the result was TAKE FIVE and the rest is history… and various other jazz groups ventured into the domain of odd time signatures.. but nothing can take away the popularity of 4/4 and 3/4 …these rhythms are very singable and danceable… the whole history of jazz standards, broadway songs, popular music stands firmly on the strong pillars of 4/4 and 3/4 .. but inventive jazz musicians have delved into odd time signatures like 5/8,7/8,9/8,11/4,13/4, etc and made it work for jazz interpretation…. In many ways apart from other cultures India is the land for odd time rhythms. it’s quite natural for musicians to play a tune in 11/4, 13/4, 9/8, … the favourites being 7/4,7/8 and 5/8…..BUT OF COURSE, YOU CANNOT JIVE TO THIS MUSIC !! But Indian dancers are quite comfortable with these odd time rhythms …..

Taking a cue from Take Five I have composed a jazz piece in 5/4 and called it NUMBERS .. it is singable.. so our very own amazing singer Vasundhara wrote words and she sings them beautifully!!!… we make it a point to play it in all our performances… 

People are loving the song !!! We will record it and put it online …

Not forgetting the ever-popular 6/8 rhythm …

Any questions?