Take Five

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Paul Desmond (1954)

"Take Five" is a jazz standard composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond and originally recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet for their album[a][2] Time Out at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studios in New York City on July 1, 1959.[3] Two years later it became a surprise[4] hit[b] and the biggest-selling jazz single ever.[5][6] Revived since in numerous movie and television soundtracks,[7] the piece still receives significant radio airplay. The single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996.

Musical style[edit]

"Take Five" is known for its distinctive two-chord[c] piano/bass vamp; catchy,[d] cool-jazz saxophone melodies; inventive, jolting drum solo;[e] and unorthodox quintuple (5
) time
, from which Dave Brubeck derived its name.[9][10]

Helped by native symphony musicians, the classically-trained Brubeck had recently enhanced his knowledge of more complex forms of music during the Quartet's U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of Eurasia in the spring of 1958.[11] The odyssey inspired him to create an album that diverged from the usual 4
or 3
of jazz by adapting the intricate meters he had encountered abroad.[12]

Composing, arranging and recording[edit]

"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
RecordedJuly 1, 1959
StudioCBS 30th Street, New York City
GenreWest Coast cool jazz
Length2:55 (single version)
5:28 (album version)
Composer(s)Paul Desmond
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"

Following a repeated request to Brubeck from the Quartet's drummer, Joe Morello, for a new piece to showcase his facility with 5
time, Desmond unwittingly "lucked out... like keno" when Brubeck delegated his saxophonist to contribute a composition in that meter to the Time Out album, using Morello's rhythm.[13] Desmond delivered two melodies,[f] which Brubeck arranged in ternary form.[15]

Recording "Take Five" proved so arduous for the Quartet that, after 40 minutes and more than 20 failed attempts, producer Teo Macero suspended the first recording session of June 25, 1959 because one or another of the members kept losing the beat. They finally cut the single and the album track at the next session on July 1.[16]


"Take Five" is written in the key of E minor, in ternary (ABA) form and in 5
time. Rhythmically, the five beats to the bar are split unevenly into 3 + 2 quarter notes; that is, the main accents (and chord changes) are on the first and fourth beats. The album version has ten sections:[17][18]

Section Description
Intro Drum enters, joined by piano after 4 bars and bass after 8 bars to set up 5
rhythm with syncopated two-chord (Em–Bm7) vamp
AA Alto sax plays main melody (A), based on E-minor hexatonic blues scale,[g] in two similar 4-bar phrases
BB Alto sax plays bridge melody (B), based on G-major scale, in two similar 4-bar phrases
AA Reprise
Solo 1 Alto sax plays improvised modal[19] solo, based on E-minor hexatonic blues scale,[h] over vamp[i]
Solo 2 Drum fades in playing improvised solo, halfway through which the vamp abruptly crescendoes before fading down to near-silence as solo ends
AA Reprise, cued by intro vamp played softly until alto sax swiftly rejoins with main melody
BB Reprise
AA Reprise
Tag Alto sax plays repeated 4-note riffs from main melody, ending with final note sustained for 3 bars over vamp

Release and chart success[edit]

Although released as a promotional[21] single on September 21, 1959,[j] "Take Five" fulfilled its chart potential only when reissued[k] for radio play and jukebox use[23] in May 1961, that year reaching No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 (October 9),[24][l] No. 5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart (October 23)[25] and No. 6 on the UK Record Retailer chart (November 16).[26] In 1962, it peaked at No. 8 both in the New Zealand Lever Hit Parade (January 11)[27] and the Dutch Single Top 100 (February 17).[28] The single is a different recording from the LP version and omits most of the drum solo.[29] It became the first jazz single to surpass a million in sales,[30] reaching two million by the time Brubeck disbanded his 'classic' quartet in December 1967.[31]

Columbia Records quickly enlisted "Take Five" in their doomed launch of the 33+13-rpm stereo single in the marketplace. Together with a unique stereo edit of "Blue Rondo à la Turk", they pressed the full album version in small numbers for a promotional six-pack of singles sent to DJs in late 1959.[32][33]

News of Brubeck's death on December 5, 2012 rekindled the popularity of "Take Five" across Europe, the single debuting in the Austrian Top 40 at No. 73 (December 14)[34] and the French Singles Chart at No. 48 (December 15)[35] while re-entering the Dutch charts at No. 50 (December 15).[28]

Chart performance for "Take Five"
Chart Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[36] 25
US Billboard Easy Listening[37] 5
UK Singles (OCC)[38] 6
New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)[39] 8
Australia (Kent Music Report)[40] 7
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[41] 8
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[42] 73
France (SNEP)[43] 48


Dave Brubeck Quartet (1962)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet first played "Take Five" for a live audience at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 5, 1959.[20] Over the next 50 years the group re-recorded it many times, and typically 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 Morello's mastery of 5

Some of the many cover versions include lyrics by Brubeck's wife Iola, penned for a September 6, 1961 live recording[m] sung by Carmen McRae backed by the Dave Brubeck Trio (Brubeck, Gene Wright and Morello).[45][46] Al Jarreau recorded an acclaimed scat version of the song for NDR television in Hamburg, West Germany on October 17, 1975.[47]

Desmond, upon his death from lung cancer in 1977, left the performance royalties for his compositions, including "Take Five", to the American Red Cross,[48][49] which has since received royalties averaging well over $100,000 a year combined.[50][51]


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 jazz, country, bluegrass, ska, reggae and pop artists in many countries. A 1968 cover by Val Bennett (retitled "The Russians Are Coming")[52] became the theme of British television series The Secret Life of Machines in the late 1980s. Moe Koffman recorded a cover for his 1996 album Devil’s Brew. In 2011, a version by Pakistan's Sachal Studios Orchestra won widespread acclaim and charted highly on American and British jazz charts.[53]


  1. ^ The single version was recorded separately the same day.[1]
  2. ^ Nominated for the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year (won by Henry Mancini for "Moon River").
  3. ^ Em-Bm7
  4. ^ Desmond believed the borderline decision to include his bridge melody was key to the tune gaining popularity.[8]
  5. ^ Featured in the album version but not the single.
  6. ^ Desmond's second, bridge melody converts the first five notes of the song "Sunday, Monday or Always" (a 1943 chart-topper for Bing Crosby) into a rhythmically-altered four-note hook,[14] repeated during a four-bar chord progression that descends diatonically (C7-Bm7-Am7-G7).
  7. ^ With one added note, F.
  8. ^ With two extra notes, F and C. By contrast, Crist (2019) describes the solo as based on the B-minor Aeolian scale[19] with one added note, A (the 'blue note' of the E-minor hexatonic blues scale).
  9. ^ There is an edit in the album track at 2:00 (4 bars after the saxophone solo ends), perhaps to remove a piano solo or to splice the two best solos together.[20]
  10. ^ Almost three months before its parent album Time Out was itself released.
  11. ^ Partly in response to heavy rotation of the tune on radio station WNEW in New York City.[22]
  12. ^ Its parent album Time Out, likewise reissued in 1961, peaked on November 27 that year at No. 2 on the Billboard Monaural LPs chart (behind only Judy at Carnegie Hall by Judy Garland).
  13. ^ Made at the Basin Street East nightclub in New York City.


  1. ^ Crist, Stephen A. (2019-09-04). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-190-21772-3. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  2. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (2020-12-07). "'Take Five' Is Impeccable. 'Time Outtakes' Shows How Dave Brubeck Made It. - An album of previously unheard recordings from the "Time Out" sessions in 1959 reveals the making of a masterpiece". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Ramsey, Doug (2005-02-01). Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. Seattle: Parkside Publications. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-9617266-7-6. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  5. ^ a b "Dave Brubeck". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  6. ^ Kniestedt, Kevin (28 November 2011). "The Mix: 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs". NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  7. ^ Alatorre, Michael (2016-03-19). "Same Song, Different Movie: Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet". le0pard13.com. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  8. ^ Ramsey, Doug (February 1, 2005). Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. Seattle: Parkside Publications. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-9617266-7-6. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  9. ^ a b Sarabia, Tony (2000-11-19). "The Story Of Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five'". NPR.org. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 2017-10-17. Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Schudel, Matt (2008-04-06). "Ambassador of Cool". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  12. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2009). 1959: The Year that Changed Everything. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-0-470-38781-8.
  13. ^ Ramsey, Doug (2005-02-01). Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. Seattle: Parkside Publications. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-9617266-7-6. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  14. ^ Giddins, Gary (2018-10-30). Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-41235-3. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  15. ^ Ramsey, Doug (2005-02-01). Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. Seattle: Parkside Publications. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-9617266-7-6. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  16. ^ Stephen A. Crist (2019-09-04). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-19-021771-6. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  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. ^ a b Crist, Stephen A. (2019-09-04). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-19-021773-0. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  20. ^ a b Clark, Philip (2020-02-18). Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-0-306-92165-0. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  21. ^ Crist, Stephen A. (2019-09-04). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-190-21772-3. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  22. ^ "Best Selling Jazz Albums". Billboard. 28 April 1962. p. 12. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  23. ^ Crist, Stephen A. (2019-09-04). Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Oxford University Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-190-21772-3. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  24. ^ "Dave Brubeck Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  25. ^ "Dave Brubeck Take Five Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 50 1961". Officialcharts.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  27. ^ "Lever Hit Parade - 11 Jan 1962". Flavour of New Zealand. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  28. ^ a b "Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five" (in Dutch). Dutch Charts. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  29. ^ Schaap, Phil (1999). Soundtrack to a Century – Jazz: The Definitive Performances (Liner notes). Sony Music Entertainment, Columbia/Legacy. J2K 65807.
  30. ^ Tawney, Raj (2019-12-13). "The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 'Time Out' at 60: Inside Jazz's First Million-Selling LP". billboard.com. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  31. ^ Feather, Leonard (1967-07-30). "The End of an Era in Modern Jazz". Los Angeles Times.
  32. ^ "The Dave Brubeck Quartet / Billy Butterfield & Ray Conniff – Take Five / South Of The Border". Discogs.com. n.d. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  33. ^ Callahan, Mike (2016-02-13). "The Stereo Singles Project, Part 2: Stereo-33 Singles Discography (1959-1964)". bsn.com. Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  34. ^ "Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  35. ^ "Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
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  37. ^ "Dave Brubeck Take Five Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  38. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  39. ^ "Lever Hit Parade - 11 Jan 1962". Flavour of New Zealand. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  40. ^ "Australian Music Report Top Singles".
  41. ^ "Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  42. ^ "Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  43. ^ "Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five" (in French). Les classement single.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ Ted Gioia (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. Oxford University Press. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-19-976915-5.
  46. ^ "Dave Brubeck Discography". jazzdisco.org. Free Software Foundation. 2001. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  47. ^ Meeker, David (2019-04-29). "NDR Jazz Workshop 1975". Loc.gov. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  48. ^ Gioia, Ted (2012-09-27). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. p. 419. ISBN 9780199937400. 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.
  49. ^ Lees, Gene (1995-12-21). Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White. Oxford University Press. p. 55.
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ "Paul Desmond – Celebrating a Legacy of Music and Compassion". American Red Cross. 2005. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  52. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002) Reggae & Caribbean Music, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6, p. 392
  53. ^ 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.

External links[edit]