Blue Rondo à la Turk

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"Blue Rondo à la Turk"
Instrumental by Dave Brubeck Quartet
from the album Time Out
Composer(s)Dave Brubeck

"Blue Rondo à la Turk" is a jazz standard composition by Dave Brubeck. It appeared on the album Time Out in 1959. It is written in 9
time, with one side theme in 4
and the choice of rhythm was inspired by the Turkish aksak time signatures.[1] It was originally recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Dave Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums.


Rhythm of "Blue Rondo à la Turk": the arrows on the tempo dial show the tempo for ♪, ♩, ♩. and the measure beat. Starts slow, and speeds up to approximate the tempo of "Blue Rondo à la Turk".

Brubeck heard this unusual rhythm performed by Turkish musicians on the street. Upon asking the musicians where they got the rhythm, one replied "This rhythm is to us what the blues is to you." Hence the title "Blue Rondo à la Turk."[2]

Contrary to popular belief, the piece is neither inspired by nor related to the last movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11, known by the near-identical title "Rondo Alla Turca".[3]

The rhythm is an additive rhythm that consists of three measures of 2+2+2+3 followed by one measure of 3+3+3 and the cycle then repeats. Taking the smallest time unit as eighth notes, then the main beats are:

\new RhythmicStaff {
   \clef percussion
   \time 9/8
   \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 4 = 150
   c4 c c c4.
   c4 c c c4.
   c4 c c c4.
   c4. c c

Derivative pieces[edit]

Rock keyboardist Keith Emerson used this piece (uncredited) as a foundation of his "Rondo" beginning when he was with the progressive rock band The Nice; it appeared on the album The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack. Emerson's version was in 4
time and Brubeck, meeting with Emerson in 2003, described it to him as "your 4/4 version which I can't play."[4] Emerson, a great admirer of Brubeck, took this to mean that Brubeck preferred his own version, as Brubeck would have had no difficulty in playing Emerson's interpretation.[5]

Later, Emerson folded the melody into the 14-minute "Finale (Medley)" on the 1993 Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) release Live at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as improvisations on "Fanfare for the Common Man". Those medleys also included themes from other well-known tunes including "America" from West Side Story, "Toccata and Fugue in Dm", and "Flight of the Bumblebee".

Emerson frequently used "Rondo" as a closing number during performances both with The Nice and ELP.[6][7]

On his 1981 album Breakin' Away, Al Jarreau performed a vocal version of the song, with lyrics by himself.[8]

Popular culture[edit]

The track is used in the soundtracks of the 2005 comedy film Wedding Crashers, the 2003 Swedish documentary Närvarande, and an Emmy-award winning 2019 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Mad About the Toy".[9][10][11]


  1. ^ "The Music of Dave Brubeck". Archived from the original on 16 September 2016.
  2. ^ Hedrick Smith. "Rediscovering Dave Brubeck". PBS.
  3. ^ Sleeve notes Archived 5 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine to Time Out,
  4. ^ Crist, Stephen A. (2019), Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Oxford University Press
  5. ^ Emerson, Keith. "Meeting Mr. Brubeck Again". Official Keith Emerson website. Archived from the original on 5 June 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Keith Emerson : 10 Essential tracks". Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Top 10 Keith Emerson songs". 11 March 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  8. ^ Crist, Stephen A. (2019). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780190217747.
  9. ^ Curtis Hanson (2005). Wedding Crashers.
  10. ^ Jan Troell (2003). Närvarande.
  11. ^ Mad About the Toy. 2019.