Unsquare Dance

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"Unsquare Dance"
Dave Brubeck Quartet-Unsquare Dance single.jpg
Single by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
B-side"Camptown Races"
Released1961 (1961)
Format7" single
GenreCool jazz, blues
Songwriter(s)Dave Brubeck
Producer(s)Teo Macero

"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 song, featured on Brubeck's album Time Further Out, 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.

Time signature[edit]

Written in 7
, 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. The song is based on a blues structure but also has a distinct country and western feel, as implied in the title (a square dance being a fixture of western US culture). "Unsquare Dance" 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]

The piano enters with descending phrases crossing the 7
rhythm. The speed of the piece gradually increases from start to finish. 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!"[citation needed] 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 beat 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.'s Record Retailer chart.[5]

In popular media[edit]

It was featured, perhaps mistakenly, in the 2013 Google doodle to honor Saul Bass' 93rd birthday.[6]

Between 1975 and 1996, "Unsquare Dance" was used as the signature tune for Austria's ORF1 weekly TV magazine Panoptikum [de].

"Unsquare Dance" is featured on the soundtrack of the 2012 Academy Award winning movie Silver Linings Playbook.

It is played over a montage in "Hero", episode 4 in season 1 (2015) of Better Call Saul.

It is featured on the soundtrack of the movie Baby Driver (2017) in a scene where the main character, Baby, is attending a criminal heist briefing playing air piano on the table in front of him, much to the annoyance of another criminal.

It is also used in the 2018 films Green Book and The Front Runner.

Used in the trailer for the film Downhill


  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. ^ Yanow, Scott. Time Further Out at AllMusic
  5. ^ Dave Brubeck - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64lDaAmpvSo

External links[edit]