Dave and Iola Brubeck on the album Time Out


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SS: So, I want to talk a little bit about Time Out, which is your best selling album, and again is notable because of its use of unusual time signatures instead of the usual 4/4 time. How did that concept come about? I understand it's not something that the record company was exactly thrilled about. Was that something that your experiences with other cultures and other types of music came forth out of? Or, how did you come up with the idea of this album that had all these unusual time signatures?

DB: Yeah, I wanted to do an album with different time signatures because I often would slip into complicated times that were just on the job. So, I was thinking that way. There's some examples of complicated things, especially in the old octet book.

I wrote one section of some piece in 5, and a two piano piece in 5 at a section. I often was playing waltzes when they weren't played too much. In fact, I thought I was the only guy playing waltzes until I heard Fats Waller's Jitterbug waltz that predated me. So, I wasn't the first one (laughter).

But, I'm the first one to play Alice in Wonderland, which later Bill Evans recorded, and Someday My Prince Will Come, which Bill recorded, and Miles Davis recorded. And now, almost everyone in that period was playing Someday My Prince Will Come.

So, I was introducing new things, playing 4 when it was in 3, which is very simple now. But at that time, people couldn't understand it. Some groups just couldn't get into playing in 5. It's very hard to switch into improvisations in 5 when you've played most of your life in 6/8 or 4/4 or 2/4.

And, so it became kind of natural for us to start playing in these time signatures. So, I wanted to put out an album. I decided to call it Time Out, where I'd use different ways of approaching time.

Then I did Time Further Out, Time in Outer Space -- there were four of those Time albums, which have influenced a lot of guys. They've gone on from there to much more complicated things. But, invariably, I'll meet guys when I'm on the road almost everyday who go back to the Time Out album as having influenced their use of time.

IB: And also, at the time you wanted to bring more emphasis on rhythm into jazz from its African roots, where I remember you talking about you felt it had strayed from the African roots which had such complicated rhythms. So, that was part of the motivation I think.

DB: And I had listened to the Denis-Roosevelt Expedition into the Belgian Congo where he would have taken one of these old machines that you cut on wax or acetate.

SS: Wax recordings in the field, literally.

DB: Yeah, and he did that. And when I heard that, I knew jazz was not reflecting its roots, not enough, and hardly at all. It was more like a European march, which some the tunes like Tiger Rag were European marches -- syncopated.

SS: It's interesting, too, with the album Time Out in particular the single Take Five, both of which became very, very popular. Certainly Take Five is the best selling single in jazz history. Why do you think these unusual tunes in the form of the album, and in particular the single Take Five became so popular if they're not what people really were used to hearing in 4/4 time signatures?

DB: That's right, and it was a total surprise to the record company. They didn't even put it out as a single for, I would say, a year or more when we knew it was being played across the country and in Europe -- very strong. But they just didn't want to admit that they were wrong. You know, they had tried to block.

The reason they didn't like the album is I used a painting on the cover, which they said you can't do that. They're all originals on one album. You can't do that. Different time signatures that you can't dance to -- you can't do that. And, I'd broken all the unwritten laws. And, they were just against it, except the president of Columbia, Goddard Lieberson loved it. From the beginning, he had to fight the sales department and everybody else to get it out. Now look, it's still selling, and it's how many years later, 50 years?

IB: Almost.

DB: Almost 50 years.

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