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The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutTakes

Mike Jurkovic By

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The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutTakes
When, for the first and the millionth time Paul McCartney is queried by lazy savants and crazed fans about what he would have cut from epic double White Album (Apple, 1968) to make it the strongest of the strongest single disc ever, the cutely weathered one just replies "It's the Beatles' bleedin' White Album, man" and the discussion, at least for that moment, is done. The fans and essayists will go on and on and on while he pursues other creative avenues, but that's the pure joy and wild obsession of it.

Now it would appear that same question can be asked of Time OutTakes, the first of a planned deep dive by the Brubeck family into the Dave Brubeck vaults, not only to celebrate the pianist's centennial (December 6, 2020) but also his lasting contributions to music and to civil society as a whole. Eight previously unreleased, glorious outtakes that, if first heard back in 1959 on Time Out (Columbia) may just as well have ascended the cultural and artistic heights as the album we hold dear has.

And though the music on Time Out is indelibly imprinted on our souls, Time OutTakes demands the A/B comparisons geeks love to spend hours on and hopefully discuss or, as we now live in a viral world, Zoom, tweet, email, Face Time, or text our fellow like-minded about what we've heard or didn't hear that distinguishes this take from that. For just as joyous as the seminal release is, Time OutTakes is right up there with it and that's not just giddy praise.

As it has historically, "Blue Rondo A La Turk" sweeps us up and who knew the version we've breathed with for fifty years was chosen because it had less mistakes? If there's mistakes on this new version. . . where the hell are they? The outtake stretches the main conversation between Brubeck and his trusty saxophonist Paul Desmond into a bluesier strut through its Middle-Eastern musical cells and truly, all is right with the world. There's a flirtatious looseness to this version that offsets the dramatic challenge of the original. It's even two minutes longer, more time to savor and question why this than that. Score one for the new listen.

"Strange Meadowlark" feels far less formal and much more intimate here than on Time Out, as if Brubeck and the time-defining rhythm of bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello just walked into the studio one day and, while waiting for Desmond to feel his way into the tune, shuffled along gorgeously. The namesake classic of course follows with the vamp still under investigation and, when Morello goes solo (as opposed to Brubeck's and Wright's accompaniment on the finished version) it is, to put it mildly, effing thrilling.

Brubeck (or Columbia's) first choice for "Three To Get Ready" is spot on: it is tighter and more defined. But "Cathy's Waltz" really could have gone either way. Once again, it's the stateliness of the old vs. the looseness of the outtake and the more natural ease of Desmond and Brubeck's solos that make it a flip of the coin. Made indelible on their first take, no alternates of "Everybody's Dancing" and "Pick Up Sticks" exist but the newly discovered "I'm In A Dancing Mood" and "Watusi Jam" jump out and raise eyebrows. Especially "Watusi Jam" with Morello again the center of attention. The wonderfully spliced bits of band banter that make up the final track add terrifically to the overall ease of the entire disc.

One wonders, had Brubeck survived to this day (he passed in 2012), if when asked what he would have done to make his masterpiece different or stronger, he might have answered something like McCartney. "Hey, it's bleedin' Time Out man." But that wouldn't, and doesn't, make Time OutTakes any less an important historical, must have document.

Track Listing

Blue Rondo A La Turk; Strange Meadowlark; Take Five; Three To Get Ready; Cathy's Waltz; I'm In A Dancing Mood; Watusi Jam; Band Banter.

Personnel

Dave Brubeck: piano; Paul Desmond: saxophone, alto; Eugene Wright: bass; Joe Morello: drums.

Album information

Title: Time OutTakes | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Brubeck Editions

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