Take Five

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"Take Five"
45 label for "Take Five".jpg
Single by Dave Brubeck Quartet
from the album Time Out
B-side"Blue Rondo à la Turk"
ReleasedSeptember 21, 1959 (1959-09-21);
reissued May 22, 1961
Format7" 45rpm
RecordedJuly 1, 1959
CBS 30th Street Studio, New York
GenreWest Coast cool jazz
Length2:55 (single version)
5:28 (album version)
Songwriter(s)Paul Desmond (composer)
Producer(s)Teo Macero
Dave Brubeck Quartet singles chronology
"Jazz Impressions of Eurasia"
"Take Five" / "Blue Rondo à la Turk"
"Camptown Races" / "Short'nin' Bread"

"Take Five" is a jazz standard composed by Paul Desmond and originally recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio in New York City on July 1, 1959 for their album Time Out.[1] Two years later it became a hit[a] and the biggest-selling jazz single ever.[2][3] Revived since in numerous movie and television soundtracks, the piece still receives significant radio airplay.

Musical style[edit]

Written in the key of E minor, "Take Five" is known for its distinctive two-chord[b] piano vamp; catchy blues-scale saxophone melody; inventive, jolting drum solo;[c] and unusual quintuple (5
) time
, from which it derives its name.[4]

Brubeck drew inspiration for this style of music in the spring of 1958 during a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of Eurasia.[5] After learning from native symphony musicians about the form, he was inspired to create an album that deviated from the usual 4
of jazz and experimented with the exotic styles he had experienced abroad.[6]

Release and chart success[edit]

Although released as a single on September 21, 1959, "Take Five" fulfilled its chart potential only when reissued in May 1961, that year reaching No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 (October 9),[7] No. 5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart (October 23)[8] and No. 6 on the UK Record Retailer chart (November 16).[9] The single is a different recording than the LP version and omits most of the drum solo.[10]

The piece was also chosen to promote Columbia's ill-fated attempt to introduce ​33 13 rpm stereo singles into the marketplace. Coupled with a unique stereo edit of "Blue Rondo à la Turk", it was pressed in small numbers as part of a promotional set of records sent to DJs in late 1959.


The Dave Brubeck Quartet first played "Take Five" to a live audience at the Village Gate nightclub in New York City in 1959.[citation needed] Over the next 50 years the group re-recorded it many times, and often used it to close concerts: each member, upon completing his solo, would leave the stage as in Haydn's Farewell Symphony until only the drummer remained ("Take Five" having been composed to feature Joe Morello's mastery of 5
time).[2][11][12] Some of the many cover versions include lyrics co-written by Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola, notably a September 6, 1961 live recording sung by Carmen McRae backed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Al Jarreau performed an unusual scat singing version of the piece in Germany in 1976.

Desmond, upon his death in 1977, left the performance royalties for his compositions, including "Take Five", to the American Red Cross,[13][14] which has since received combined royalties of approximately $100,000 a year.[15][16]



"Take Five" is written in the key of E minor in 5
time and is subdivided as 3 + 2 quarter notes. The piece can be divided into 10 distinct parts.[17][18]

Part Description
Part 1 Intro: Drum, piano and double bass set up 5
pattern with the two-chord ostinato: Em – Bm7
Part 2 Section A: alto sax plays the melody (A) in two similar 4-bar phrases
Part 3 Section B: alto sax plays the bridge melody (B) in two similar 4-bar phrases
Part 4 Section A:
Part 5 Section solo 1: improvised alto sax solo over the ostinato
Part 6 Section solo 2: improvised drum solo
Part 7 Section A: preceded by the intro ostinato (Em – Bm7)
Part 8 Section B: melody
Part 9 Section A: melody
Part 10 Conclusion: melody (A) then the ostinato to conclusion

Cover versions[edit]

The piece has been a staple of jazz and pop music since it was first released. More than 40 cover versions have been recorded, as early as Carmen McRae's cover in 1961 on an album titled Take Five Live. Recordings have been released by artists known for playing jazz (Al Jarreau, George Benson), country (Chet Atkins), bluegrass (the String Cheese Incident) and pop (Stevie Wonder), as well as from artists in many different countries. In 1972, singer Don Partridge wrote lyrics to "Take Five" sung to the saxophone melody, and regularly performed the song in live stage performances and when street-busking throughout Europe.[19][full citation needed] In 1995, Moe Koffman recorded a version for his album Devil's Brew. This was the first version recorded by a Canadian artist. In 2011, a version by Pakistan's Sachal Studios Orchestra won widespread acclaim and charted highly on American and British jazz charts.[20]


  1. ^ Nominated for the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
  2. ^ Em / Bm7
  3. ^ Featured on the album version but not on the single.


  1. ^ Schudel, Matt (2012-05-12). "Dave Brubeck, 'Take Five', and his longtime collaborator credited with the jazz 'legend's biggest hit". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-07-23.
  2. ^ a b "Dave Brubeck". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  3. ^ Kniestedt, Kevin. "The Mix: 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  4. ^ Canter, Andrea (2008-05-20). "Take "Time Out" for Dave Brubeck: At Orchestra Hall, May 25th". Jazz Police. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  5. ^ Schudel, Matt (2008-04-06). "Ambassador of Cool". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  6. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2009). 1959: The Year that Changed Everything. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-0-470-38781-8.
  7. ^ "Dave Brubeck Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  8. ^ "Dave Brubeck Take Five Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  9. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 50 1961". Officialcharts.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  10. ^ Schaap, Phil (1999). Soundtrack to a Century – Jazz: The Definitive Performances (Liner notes). Sony Music Entertainment, Columbia/Legacy. J2K 65807.
  11. ^ Sarabia, Tony (2000-11-19). "The Story Of Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five'". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 2017-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  12. ^ Thursby, Keith (2011-03-14). "Joe Morello dies at 82; jazz drummer for Dave Brubeck Quartet". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2017-10-17. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  13. ^ Gioia, Ted (2012-09-27). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. p. 419. When Paul Desmond passed away in 1977, his will stipulated that royalties form this song and his other compositions go to the American Red Cross. Since then, the Red Cross has received more than $6 million from Desmond's bequest.
  14. ^ Lees, Gene (1995-12-21). Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White. Oxford University Press. p. 55.
  15. ^ Doyle, Brian (2004-01-25). Spirited Men: Story, Soul & Substance. Lanham, MD: Cowley Publications. p. 90. ISBN 9781461733034. The proceeds from his compositions and from his recordings were sent to the American Red Cross, which now earns more than $100,000 a year from his music. In the twenty-four years since his death, Paul Desmond has given the Red Cross more than three million dollars.
  16. ^ "Paul Desmond – Celebrating a Legacy of Music and Compassion". American Red Cross. 2005. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  17. ^ Lawn, Richard J. (2013). Experiencing Jazz. Routledge. p. 237. ISBN 9781135042684.
  18. ^ Barnes, Austin Lee (2012). Analysis of selected percussion literature: Concerto for vibraphone and orchestra by Ney Rosauro, Surface tension by Dave Hollinden, Urban sketches for percussion trio by Lon W. Chaffin, "Take Five" by Paul Desmond, and DT supreme by Austin Barnes (PDF) (Report). Manhattan, Kansas: Kansas State University. Archived from the original on 2017-10-17.
  19. ^ Stewart Partridge, brother
  20. ^ Walsh, Declan (2011-08-05). "Jazz album by Pakistan music veterans storms western charts". The Guardian. Pakistan. Archived from the original on 2017-03-08.