Desmond’s Quotes // Take Five

This edition of ‘Desmond’s Quotes’ is rather unique.  How so?  This one features Paul Desmond quoting from none other than himself!  As always, there’s a backstory that’s worth exploring so let’s get to it!

It’s 1964, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet is in London, England.  They’re in the TV studios of the BBC to film a segment for the jazz show ‘Jazz 625’.  I have no idea what the significance of the number 625 is, but the show itself was pretty cool as far as jazz television shows go.  The musicians are given ample time to play, with limited talking from the announcer.  Speaking of which, the announcer on this episode is Steve Race, and he inadvertently played a large role in how the Quartet played one of their tunes.

Introducing their monster hit and Desmond’s signature tune “Take Five”, Race makes the observation that the Brubeck Quartet had begun to play it faster and faster as a result of performing it numerous times.  He then tells the audience in the studio and in TV land to listen and see.  As the audience begins to clap, drummer Joe Morello kicks off the beat, but does so in a drastically slower tempo than how the group usually played it.  It’s almost as if he does it in direct defiance of what the announcer had just said. The easing of the tempo makes the tune groove along in a dreamy mood.  aa6287283a1d88d511c909653c32d2d31ce0f9d90b8ba443f41ebe2a60d6466eDesmond weaves a reflective, lyrical solo that sounds even more plaintive due to the relaxed tempo.  Brubeck feeds him quiet chords in the background.  When Desmond finishes, Brubeck smoothly moves into his own solo while maintaining the reverential mood.  He plays one of his most lyrical “Take Five” solos of all time before building into a stomping, rhythmic chordal romp.  Brubeck cools things down with a call and response with Morello’s drums before taking up the familiar rhythm on the piano and making way for Desmond’s restatement of the tune.  All in all, this one of the loveliest, grooviest renditions of “Take Five” that Brubeck and Desmond ever performed (on tape, that is), and ranks as one of my favorite “Take Five” versions.  It makes me wish they had explored this tune more often as a ballad instead of the raucous set closer that it invariably served as.

When Desmond begins his solo, he proceeds to play a lovely three note figure, leaves some space to let it sink in, and then answers it.  If it sounds familiar, that’s because this was Desmond’s standard intro to “Stardust”!  On recordings from 1951 all the way to the 1970’s, Paul Desmond used this F/D-flat/A-flat phrase to begin his solo, and usually followed it by walking back up the scale in some form or fashion.  In this case, Desmond plays a figure almost exactly like his “Stardust” intro from a 1953 concert at the College of the Pacific.

To be fair, Desmond frequently used that same phrase from his “Stardust” intros as his intro to his “Take Five” solos.  Did he borrow it from himself, or was it just a coincidence?  Take a listen and decide for yourself.  First, the actual performance of “Take Five” (sans the announcer’s introduction), followed by the performance of “Stardust” from 1953.  On “Take Five”, Desmond begins his solo 48 seconds in.  On “Stardust”, it’s the first thing Desmond plays.

The Tune:  “Take Five”

Recorded:  June 1964 in London, England


  • Dave Brubeck-  Piano
  • Paul Desmond-  Alto Sax
  • Eugene Wright-  Bass
  • Joe Morello-  Drums

The Tune:  “Stardust”

Recorded:  14 December, 1953 at the College of the Pacific, Stockton, CA


  • Dave Brubeck-  Piano
  • Paul Desmond-  Alto Sax
  • Ron Crotty-  Bass
  • Lloyd Davis-  Drums

2 thoughts on “Desmond’s Quotes // Take Five

  1. The number ‘625’ refers to the (then) new pre-color era 625 line black and white transmission,ordinary black and white TV then transmitted at 405 lines.
    Better resolution at 625 lines transmission. The whole series featured some great artists,most programs available on You Tube.
    This is a great site,already costing me money as I discover ‘new’ gems on vinyl!

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