Unsquare Dance

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"Unsquare Dance"
Single by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
A-side Unsquare Dance
B-side Camptown Races
Released 1961 (1961)
Format Single
Recorded 1961
Label CBS
Writer(s) Dave Brubeck

"Unsquare Dance" is a musical piece written by the American jazz composer Dave Brubeck in 1961 and released as a single in the U.S. the same year (and in 1962 in the U.K.).[1] The single peaked at No.93 on the U.S. Cash Box chart on December 16, 1961,[2] and reached No.14 on the U.K. singles chart in the summer of 1962.

7/4 time signature[edit]

Written in 7/4 time, the piece is an example of Brubeck's exploration of time signatures. According to Brubeck, it was written during a single trip from his home to the recording studio, and was recorded the same day. Based on a blues form, the piece is driven by a strong bass figure, with percussion provided primarily by the rim of the snare drum and hand claps. It combines duple and triple meter.[3]

Third measure with initial theme development (time 0:22 to 0:34)

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The piano enters with descending phrases crossing the 7/4 rhythm. The main theme then develops initially without left accompaniment and then with a characteristic figure based around the use of tenths. A drum solo using rim shots follows, then a restatement of the theme and a distinctive conclusion.

Brubeck says in his liner notes: "'Unsquare Dance', in 7/4 time, is a challenge to the foot-tappers, finger-snappers and hand-clappers. Deceitfully simple, it refuses to be squared. And the laugh you hear at the end is Joe Morello's guffaw of surprise and relief that we had managed to get through the difficult last chorus". According to one music teacher, "Brubeck calls it 'Unsquare Dance' and it ends with 'Turkey in the Straw' which is as 'square' as you can get!" At the very end, right after referencing "Turkey in the Straw", the song quotes the well known musical couplet known in some circles as shave and a haircut ... two bits, with the last note being the seventh in the measure.

Chart performance[edit]

"Unsquare Dance" was initially included on the album Time Further Out, and became a hit single, peaking at No.74 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100[4] and No.14 on the U.K. singles chart.

Brubeck subsequently arranged the piece for orchestra.

Although it is rarely covered, Brubeck endorsed an arrangement and recording by British pianist and composer Paddy Milner.


  1. ^ Unsquare Dance / Camptown Races at rateyourmusic.com
  2. ^ Cash Box Top 100, 12/16/61, Cash Box
  3. ^ Kamien, Roger (1980). Music: An Appreciation. McGraw-Hill. p. 40. 
  4. ^ Billboard Singles, Allmusic

External links[edit]